An anthology of 5 different cab drivers in 5 American and European cities and their remarkable fares on the same eventful night.An anthology of 5 different cab drivers in 5 American and European cities and their remarkable fares on the same eventful night.An anthology of 5 different cab drivers in 5 American and European cities and their remarkable fares on the same eventful night.
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.
- Jan 15, 2006