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|Index||93 reviews in total|
In the early 90's Jarmusch delivered this charmer, a movie that unites
America and Europe through one single topic, yet shows very different
versions of it.
At probably the exact same moment people around the globe get into taxis. A stylish Hollywood casting agent mounts a cab in L.A., in New York it's a hapless poor man trying to get home, in Paris we encounter a blind woman, in Rome a priest and in Helsinki a bunch of drunks will tell their story. Yes, indeed. Stories are told, because each episode is an encounter with the respective cabbie, who all have a life and a past of their own.
Wynona Ryder's performance of the 20-year-old, chain-smoking taxi driver does not work very well and also makes for the least interesting story. But Armin Müller-Stahl as an East-German refugee and former clown, who is awe-struck and belittled by the bustling NYC around him makes up for a lot. His helplessness when trying to communicate with his passenger, played by Giancarlo Esposito, almost becomes tangible when it manifests in his complete inability to steer the taxi. Within very few minutes the two men develop an utterly deep and good-humored trust and friendship between them. I'd call it the funniest portion of the movie, but in Rome we encounter Roberto Benigni as an always talking, sex-obsessed cabbie. His is the story we get the least emotional or intellectual outcome from, but, hey, welcome to the Benigni Show! If you are open-minded enough to laugh about a few surprises in the field of sexual experimentation (which we don't see but only hear described without too much detail), this one will stay with you as one of the brightest twenty minutes in your life. Before Rome we visit Paris with the most mysterious, yet most catching segment, a curious story about the afore-mentioned blind woman and a black cab driver, who - we can't be sure - might be going blind himself (he's very short-sighted and therefore has problems with driving his taxi) and has a lot of questions to ask. The woman, however, is not interested in conversation, yet we get the impression she opens up more than the driver realizes. In Helsinki a group of drunks tell the story of their sleeping friend's worst day. The cab-driver listens to it. It's a terrible story about a horrible predicament and the poor fellow's life basically lies in ruins. And yet the cabbie tops the story with one of the saddest things you'll ever have heard.
The concept of the movie thinks of night as a place rather than a time, because all of the stories begin at the same moment in time but in different time zones. We move east in the process of the film and so we experience sunset in Los Angeles and early morning in Helsinki. Each of these times lends a special atmosphere to the story it tells, which becomes the most effective in the Helsinki story, which is utterly sad, however ends with a new day starting. People leave their places and go about their lives - the world moves on, none of the stories has an ending, life for each of the characters (except one) will continue.
What's so great about this movie is that it tells such different stories with such different characters who all have different pasts and intentions, each accommodating the place of action (even visually - in L.A. even the buildings appear to be candy-flavored, while in Helsinki the city is cold, drab, yet hopeful) and it all comes together to this huge picture, which reminds us that we are all different but all live on the same planet and know similar things about life, death and everything in-between. I wonder what this movie would have been like, if Jarmusch had also considered taxis in non-western countries.
I highly recommend this movie to anyone who... Oh, blast! I recommend this movie to everyone.
Since I have almost seventeen years of experience in the taxi business as a dispatcher and driver, I have to say that "Night on Earth" is one of my favorite movies! This movie gives a very real and comical portrayal of life in this line of work. I've known people who were given great opportunities, and rejected them. I've personally kicked drunk idiots out of my cab. I've had blind people tell me which route to take. I've had people who were so "down and out" tell me their life story. This is a film that portrays what taxi driving is all about, and it is not limited to the USA. People are the same all over the world! This movie is not yet available on DVD in the USA, but I really hope it will be soon!
It's not that this movie is non stop laughs, but just that it is so smart and such intelligent humor. It's got a clever premise about five short stories involving cab rides in different cities, but it's the specific situations that will crack you up. One after another, they are all hilarious. Roberto Benini's scene had me laughing out loud, and that never happens. The only sketch that wasnt so great was the opening one with Winona Ryder. Everything that followed it rocked and impressed the hell out of me. A smart comedy. not too many of those.
Jim Jarmusch, a director who never neglects to find the time for the
little moments, glances, exchanges in dialog, that bring out the better
(or lesser) in people, puts his skills to full force in Night on Earth.
Another in his several episodic-style films, this time he pushes
forward his great use of pure conversational, and emotional, comedy, as
well as drama. In fact, this may be one of the best from the 90's of
that kind that came out (i.e. mixing comedy and drama to create some
bittersweet vignettes). Inspiration of course pours out from European
cinema, but even in the American segments there's a sense of genuine
pathos with the characters. Sometimes one style was kept totally
consistent, with all comedy in episode four or all tragedy in episode
five, or the two styles went back and forth like in the first two. The
third remains the more ambiguous, and maybe more uncomfortable, segment
of the bunch, and even if it might be the lesser of them all it's still
fascinating due to the actors.
But to get back to the humanism that comes on in the film, it's not something at all uncommon to Jarmusch's work. In Ghost Dog it goes a long way to help us not be too left out of the world of Whitaker's character, or it makes every lady seem all the more odd and unique in Broken Flowers. Here since it is met with a more realistic approach, with situations that could be happening right now at night in these cities, I'm almost reminded of Renoir. Particularly in the second segment in New York, where there's the perfect divide between lightness and over-the-top- lightness being in Armin Mueller-Stahl's performance as Helmut (German ex-clown turned un-knowing cabbie) and Giancarlo Esposito's performance as Yo-yo. Maybe it's because scenes like these usually wouldn't make it into 'mainstream' fare, but a sequence like this showcases some great dialog on both sides (and when Rosie Perez comes in, all bets are off). Stahl especially makes the scenes work in-particular as he almost seems to inhabit this person of an outsider in the (taken for granted) amazing space of NYC.
To say which one was my overall favorite might be a little picky, as every one of them had something to offer differently. There was the cute, and slightly awkward, scenes with Ryder and Rowlands (maybe one of Ryder's few gems in her career too, mostly based on style). The segment in Paris, again, may make one feel a little uncomfortable, but that might be the point. And I loved how Beatrice Dalle's role went effortlessly between the bizarre and the almost ironically compassionate. It's also the segment which provides a little extra bitter of a touch by way of the Ivory Coast cabbie, however it does come to pass as being about two outsiders thrust into a strange little moment in life. Roberto Benigni's segment was drop dead funny, which is surprising considering the hit or miss ways of Jarmusch's comedy. But Benigni is so outrageous in his long monologue its no wonder what becomes of his passenger. It's a terrific mix between Benigni's voracious style of fast (but not too fast) speech, and a sort of silent-film kind of comedy, likely out of Buster Keaton or something. And all of this is accentuated by a carefully controlled mis en scene of driving (which is always visually endearing), where right when you're expecting there to be a cut it waits one or two extra seconds. It's a film with a sweet rhythm that doesn't drag like in Jarmusch at his worst.
The last segment, oddly enough, could be a downer for some. It was for me, until I decided to watch it a second time. This combines the frustration seen in bits in the other segments regarding a city life that bogs down on its inhabitants, and the sympathy that can come out even behind the tough veneer of lives lived with a shell protecting them from idiots. When it comes time for Matti Pellonpaa's monologue, it makes for the most touching, and a close-call for most emotionally striking, thing Jarmusch has ever written, put together by his portrayal. What's interesting even more so is how the film, despite this bleak story, doesn't seem to end too much on that note, due to the last little bit between Mika and Avi, the drunk passenger. In fact, after watching this a second time, I got to get the sense of what the film might be about- getting past that separation between a driver doing his job and a passenger with their own issues. It's also a small ruby of a communication fable, of how lives in different cities and countries may be of course different in speech and attitude and dress, but have similar plights to deal with in the dead of night.
No one I ever mention this film to has heard of it, let alone seen it!
I actually tried to see Thelma and Louise at the cinema when Night on
Earth came out, but as it was sold out, I saw this instead - what a
lucky break! The film is actually 5 short films of around twenty
minutes, each one a taxi journey, taking place at the exact same moment
in 5 cities across the world, from LA to Helsinki, via New York, Paris
Without ruining the surprises contained (its unexpectedness is one of its delights) the film covers numerous emotions. At times it is utterly hilarious, at others it's sad and moving. It is pacy and yet considered, the characters are well painted, both by the writing and the acting, and the story lines engrossing yet punchy. There are some sub-titles, by the way, but please don't let that put you off. It's not one of those intellectual "aren't I clever" films.
If you like your films classy, well written, well acted, intelligent, thought provoking yet accessible, and with a great soundtrack (Tom Waits), then Night on Earth is for you! Share it!
Jim Jarmusch does an excellent job in creating character conflict and
intriguing, realistic dialogue. But what I admire most in this movie are
the opening scenes of every segment. He knows how to capture the essence
every city and how to establish mood. National Geographic has nothing
Jarmusch's photographic talent.
All segments are well written and tie in with the respective cities that are the back drop of the film: LA, NY, Paris, Rome and Helsinki. The Helsinki segment is the most depressing and it's kind of a bummer that the movie had to end on that note. The Paris segment steals the show. Incredible camera work and terrific dialogue.
Overall, the movie gave me a renewed appreciation for cinema. Thanks Jarmusch.
Jim Jarmusch does for movies as Tom Waits does for music, no wonder he uses his music in his films. I've seen this movie over and over, its truly wonderful. We glimpse A side of the world that is the same no matter where you go. The world is round so no matter where you go you are always in the center of it. Here we catch a Taxi in different cities around the globe and although the cultures are clearly different , there is something of the blues in each act. I can't make out which one is my favorite, they all have a certain magic to them that totally captures to mood of the country we are in although the mood itself is that of the night where not much seems to be going on really except in our taxis. Each scene in this film is a masterpiece, no matter which country Jarmusch takes us too. Of course Benigni needless I mention is that little bit more of a of a superstar but for that matter so is the blind girl in Paris. Great music, great photography, great acting, its all good. Its magic!
I suppose people will typically talk about they loved the NY and Rome
stories, but hated the Helsinki segment, or vice-versa, or whatever.
This probably comes from thinking of the entire movie as belonging to a
single genre--drama, comedy, satire. If you take each story by itself,
though, with an open mind, you will find yourself being entertained
(mostly) in five different ways. Although of course we will all have
I wondered briefly why there wasn't a segment set in Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan--to make it truly global. Of course it wouldn't be night at the same time on that side of the world. Jarmusch should have done it anyway.
Some think the movie is too long. But this is obviously a movie you don't need to watch in a single sitting; indeed, for the reason stated above, it's perhaps best watched a little at a time.
A fantastic piece of entertainment: five little stories, five cities, four
languages. That's all. This movie has no message but it portrays five
regions of the world most sensitively.
The L.A. episode is the weakest. It is not bad but it has one big problem: it is the first one. People start watching the movie and expect something sensational. This first episode cannot present anything spectacular, only first class character acting. There are no big surprises or twists, the episode is not particularly funny or anything. Honestly, when I saw the first minutes of this movie I thought: `O dear, I'm going to fall asleep!'
Then, the N.Y. story came. This one made me laugh real hard, and it made Armin Mueller Stahl one of my favourite actors. I started to love this movie, and I was well prepared for the Paris episode, which is, in my opinion the best, the most satisfying of them.
I found the story of the Roberto Benigni episode rather stupid, but his talent in exaggerating (so he did this even seven years before 1999's Oscar ceremony!) made up for it.
Then, the huge contrast: The liveliest episode is followed by the dreariest. Finnish workers tell each other stories from their lives, each trying to tell the saddest.
`Night on Earth' is not a movie for everybody but I think it is, in any case, the ideal movie to watch on television at two o'clock in the morning.
In terms of perspective on life, these comic-philosophic taxi rides may be
the most uplifting scenes in Jarmusch's oeuvre. The first of five segments
(in L.A.) deals with Winona Ryder (in a broad, self-conscious performance)
as a cab driver who picks up Gena Rowlands, who wants to put her in a movie.
Rowlands is subtle and complex: she's a rich bitch with a soft side, but we
don't know if she's the former because she's a player or if she's the latter
because she wants to use Ryder. What Jarmusch is going for is to contrast
the social classes -- he has an obvious, unfunny line where Ryder's
character says she's never been to the executive terminal at the airport
before -- but what's really interesting is seeing, since Jarmusch is usually
a male-oriented director, how he handles women (one a tomboy, one in a
position of power).
It's obvious that the little idea of a movie about four taxi cab drivers is just a thin story that gives Jarmusch an excuse to work with certain actors, like Rowlands, whose late, great husband he adores. He goes for cultural miscommunication in the New York story (which is the film's most tender and brotherly), the warring cultures within a city, where a black man (Giancarlo Esposito) who can't land a cab fights with his Puerto Rican girlfriend while being badly driven around by former circus clown (Armin Mueller-Stahl, in a goofy, charming performance). Jarmusch makes brilliant statements on race and color in the Paris segment, with a sassy blind woman who's aware of what her driver is thinking of her -- and who turns our expectations on their head twice, without coming back to where we started. Benigni, who doesn't play the clown, is nevertheless the funniest in the Rome ride: he talks aloud to himself and outdoes and predates "American Pie" by almost a decade. The final, Helsinki section is the most powerful. When the cabbie tries to one-up the sob story by one of his three passengers, the conclusion seems to be that he wins; the two conscious passengers seem to think their unconscious friend's troubles are insignificant, as if they can't both be sad. 7/10
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