Night on Earth (1991) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
99 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
9/10
One of the great "world-movies"
KWiNK25 March 2003
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.
80 out of 95 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
The good old world
karl_consiglio7 November 2006
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!
23 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Funny as hell
pompaj5 November 2001
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.
56 out of 66 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
One of My Favorite Films!!
fpapp4 January 2003
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!
73 out of 89 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
Original, funny and tragic
Apollo-143 June 1999
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 of every city and how to establish mood. National Geographic has nothing over 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.
29 out of 33 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
Jarmusch as humanist; one of the best films of 1991
MisterWhiplash15 January 2006
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.
44 out of 52 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
The most under-rated film in history!
dominic-lynch-118 September 2006
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 and Rome.

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!
36 out of 43 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
The best film of Jim Jarmusch
RainDogJr6 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
For me this film is the best of Jarmusch and one of my favorites films ever. The reason is simple: Is original, yes this film is one of the most originals films in a lot of years, the five stories, the five different cities and is all only in one night, for me that is awesome and excellent because Jarmusch is the only filmmaker that could do that. About the film: well my favorite story is the one with Roberto Benigni that takes place in Rome, the reason is Benigni, because for me this is the funniest performance of Benigni and well the story is great, the part when Benigni tell his story about the sheep is just very funny and of course the other five stories are great. The other story that i loved is the one that takes place in New York with "Helmut" is very funny and i think that Jarmusch want that: funny and great stories with a message like the message in the one that takes place in Paris, whit the blind girl and the taxi driver. Well this all i can say about a great film and well i have to say that hope that you can see this film and enjoy Roberto Benigni, Winona Ryder and more (yes the cast is great). Night on earth: 10 Roberto Benigni: 10
8 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
each vignette good in a different way
KFL29 April 1999
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 our favorites.

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.
28 out of 39 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
5 little stories, 5 cities, 4 languages - surprising
Mort-316 January 2002
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.
30 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
Original, bold, poignant, very funny
chiefbrody200110 October 2006
It's at times a little telegraphed, even heavy handed; the links between the five stories being arbitrary, almost tenuous introductions to another morality tale, but there's lots to like regardless. Roberto Benigni is excellent as the offbeat cab driver who likes the company of pumpkins and sheep, and his funny segment is juxtaposed quite beautifully with the more heartfelt and raw finale. My favourite segment, however, is the equally funny New York section starring Giancarlo Esposito, which is basically a culture clash between a working-class New Yorker and a foreign immigrant's first night driving a taxi. It balances both the humour and drama perfectly, a harmony which isn't met so successfully in the rest of the film. Yet, Jim Jarmusch's tale about disparate lives intermingling during one night is both original, bold (filming across the world and in native languages has to be applauded), poignant, and very funny.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
2/10
Deadly Dull
GeneSiskel10 August 2014
Jim Jarmusch is an acquired taste, at best. This 1991 movie, which was produced, directed, and written by Jarmusch, is slow, self-indulgent, and horribly scripted. Five scenes, in five dark cities, play out at night. These are taxi scenes, but take it from me, folks: I have driven a taxi in two cities, only one of them dark, and every night that I drove I returned home with at least one story to relate that was better than these. It is painful to watch Gina Rowlands or Winona Ryder, for example, deliver lines that make them look like beginning actors. Only Roberto Benigni, who probably wrote his own comic bit, sustains any interest. Enjoy another film.
6 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
7/10
7/10
desperateliving2 August 2004
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
24 out of 38 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
Give it a try
silesius-123 November 2006
When I first heard about "Night on Earth" I thought it was one of the typical award-winning Arthaus- movies your girlfriend forces you to watch. I mean, 120 minutes watching people in taxis? But it was really entertaining, especially the scenes with Roberto Benigni and Armin Mueller-Stahl. I could Benigni watch for the whole 120 minutes talking to himself. (Talking? Singing, screaming, yelling, poking fun, ... and his interlocutor, the deserted, silent, dark, somewhat morbid streets of a beautiful Roman night) So, if your an Arthaus-sceptic like me, give this one a try. Buy the DVD and, if your girlfriend wants you to watch anything that sounds boring, suggest that one in response, you'll not be disappointed.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
You can have some amazing experiences riding around in taxis.
Lee Eisenberg8 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Playing on a theme similar to the one in director Jim Jarmusch's "Mystery Train", "Night on Earth" portrays the relationships between cabbies and their fares in five different cities all at the same time. In Los Angeles, punk Corky (Winona Ryder) picks up overworked executive Victoria Snelling (Gena Rowlands) and gets on her nerves. In New York, immigrant Helmut Grokenberger (Armin Mueller-Stahl) picks up African-American YoYo (Giancarlo Esposito), who has to show the driver how to drive. In Paris, an immigrant from the Ivory Coast picks up a blind girl, and they have a discussion about race and blindness. In Rome, a lunatic (Roberto Benigni) picks up a priest and confesses (warning: what he confesses may shock you royally). In Helsinki, a man picks up three men, and everyone has a sad story.

The Rome segment is truly the funniest, with Benigni going all out in every way possible. The New York segment is also pretty funny, with YoYo getting irked by Helmut's inability to drive, and making fun of his name. The Helsinki segment is touching in every way possible. Jim Jarmusch may be an acquired taste, but he does have some good ideas.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
A perfect intro to Jim Jarmusch's films
Wazoo28 February 2000
If you've never seen a film directed by Jim Jarmusch, this would be a good place to start. Five vignettes about taxi drivers around the world are presented in this funny, touching, and truly unique picture. The stories range from flat-out hilarious to surprisingly moving, taking place in Los Angeles, New York City, Paris, Rome and Helsinki. The Rome story -- featuring Roberto Beningi as a maniacal cabdriver giving a lewd confession to his priest customer -- is typically hilarious Beningi. The Helsinki story is sad and very moving. An enormous range of emotions will be gleaned from viewing this film. Jarmusch has a tendency for the offbeat and this film is no exception. However, it's a bit more accessible than some of his other works. If you like this, go out and rent "Stranger Than Paradise," "Mystery Train" or "Down By Law."
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
Five Beautiful Stories
moviefreakgirl24 December 2006
This is a truly amazing movie which I love. It has five different stories, each on a different city, with very different people, but all in a taxi. All the people are very different, with different background, ambitions, culture and personality, but in the end, so similar. I loved every part of it, some of them are very funny, others touching, depressing, heartbreaking, enjoyable or simply beautiful. They are all wonderful portraits of the city in which they happen. They don't show touristic locations, but how the cities really are and how people behave and think. Every story is well told, with great pace, amazing, believable dialogs and realistic characters that you get to know very well in little time. They work both together and alone. They're all great and I can't choose my favorite.

In the first segment, a young tomboy taxi driver meets a wealthy talent seeker, who wants to cast her in a movie. In New York, an afro American meets an immigrant, his cab driver, lost in the city. In Paris, a blind girl takes a ride with an irritable cab driver from the Ivory Coast and they talk about life and blindness. In Rome, a cab driver picks up a priest and starts confessing, and in Helsinki a miserable driver picks up three drunks and they speak about the most depressing things that ever happened to them.

The direction is amazing in all its simplicity. The camera angles are steady, usually focusing no the actors and allowing you to concentrate on the dialogs.But there are some that show the city, the cars passing, the buildings, lovers in the middle of the night, junkies, etc, and these have unusual quality.

The acting is great by everyone. Winona Ryder, frequently criticized, is in my opinion very funny and totally different from her other roles. I really enjoyed her acting. Gena Rowlands plays her "opposite" in a nice, underacting way. Armin Mueller-Stahl is very touching and expressive (the moment he says he was a clown is very beautiful), with an amazing use of his eyes. Giancarlo Esposito and Jennifer Perez are fun to watch, too. Béatrice Dalle is incredibly charismatic and believable as a blind young woman, and Isaach De Bankolé is good. Roberto Benigni is about as hilarious as you can get, in his one man show. His speech is obviously very funny, but Benigni makes it mind blowing. Some will hate it, though I couldn't stop laughing. Matti Pellonpää delivers his speech in a dramatic, depressive way but without overacting.

The cinematography and the music are beautiful, make this movie feel nostalgic and help linking the segments. This is a very original, worthwhile movie.
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
10/10
A little masterpiece !
redx170812 December 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I've been a taxi driver for almost 30 years, and when discussing movies featuring taxis, I always say that there's only been one movie that gives a fair description of what taxi driving is all about. Jarmush hits it spot on here. Through 5 episodes in 5 different cities, all happening at the same time, he takes us into the magic World of night driving. I'll agree with most that the 1st episode (LA) is also the weakest. But good performances by Rowlands and Ryder still manages to bring it home nicely. Then we move to NY for a warm, touching and low key funny episode with a great performance by Stahl. Now off to Paris for a weird, but strangely fascinating interaction between a Black driver and a blind girl. This is an episode that grows on you the more times you see it. Now for some good fun. Welcome to the Benigni show in Rome. Now this may be the least authentic part, but it's downright hilarious. After having had your spirits lifted here we move on to Cold, gloomy Helsinki for the final part that could very well bring out the tears. It does however end with a light twist to get you out without feeling too miserable. This is my favorite Jarmush movie. It's about real people, it has great dialogue and while it may not be a great masterpiece, it's certainly a Little one.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
Look to the Human Side
Hitchcoc30 November 2010
This is a film that is strictly about character. Or should I say characters? A set of five little twenty minute films, set in and around taxi cabs, allowing the characters to interact and expose their loves and their fears, their baggage and their hopes. Each is strong or weak in its own way. The first, with Winona Ryder is, to me, the weakest, although I couldn't take my eyes off her. There is subtlety and a delicate touch to all of them. My favorite was the Finnish one. The most contrived and least human was the Italian one with Roberto Benigni. While it was outrageous, it was a long running gag, a kind of cruel joke. In the other the four, the people were interesting and accessible. Their lives were realistic and, in some ways, cruel, yet their stories moved us. All things considered, it is a unique idea and has enough to recommend it. Also, there's the music of Tom Waits. What more could you want.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
About the night...
jpschapira9 August 2008
Jim Jarmusch's "Night on Earth" is a tricky movie. A tricky long-duration movie that wins points because its masterfully made and because the connections established between its different parts justify its condition of full-length feature. Otherwise, we were simply fooled by the original Jarmusch (well, maybe we were a little), as we lived the experience of five different shorts in the same movie, presented as one whole piece. The truth is I don't know what was the man's plan, so these are guesses.

However, whatever the plan there's no doubt that "Night on Earth" is a good piece of film-making. Honest also, the film doesn't ask much of the viewer; only that he or she listens and watches carefully. If you do that, you will be rewarded. But don't worry about trying to get some 'meaning of life' thing out of this ride; the less you look for the better, because although Jarmusch's script is as complex and thought provoking as they come, there's never an intention of teaching something or giving a lesson of anything.

The development is simple, as stated in the adequate tagline: "Five Taxis, Five Cities, One Night". What's a night on Earth, anyway? Well, for me it's just about every single night of my life, and I suppose it's the same for Matsan who lives with me and for my parents and brothers for that matter. Well, Jarmusch chose the cities and the characters: taxi drivers.

I mention the characters in detail and not the cities because I personally believe that these five cities could have been any of the cities of the world (of the Earth, to respect the film's title). The fact that the cities Jarmusch chose are iconic world places and that the director 'knows the night' of every one of them and shoots them brilliantly and similarly and trying to tour them all is a remarkable fact, but still I don't feel the necessity of mentioning the cities in this review.

As I said, I'd like to make a reference to the taxi drivers: the first one, played splendidly by Winona Ryder is a compulsive smoker who looks and acts like a boy and cares about nothing else than her work and becoming a mechanic; the second one, played by a phenomenal Almin Mueller Stahl, is a man who is apparently driving a car for the first time; the others include Roberto Benigni (and I think with that you can imagine the character), a black driver played by Isaach De Bankolé and a driver named Mika played by Matti Pellonpaa.

All of these individuals 'are' the film, which shows each taxi from a few camera angles and cares about anything else than the people in each car (the ones who are not driving also give magnificent portrayals) and the streets of each city. I realize that I might not be writing a very enthusiastic review, but I think it may not be enough with the expressions 'amazing script' and 'amazing human perception' to convince to watch this atypical picture.

I'm going to take one last risk by telling you that what you'll see must happen every day in many cities of the Earth. But to write it down and shoot it for people to watch it, laugh at or with it and maybe also cry, is very original and unforgettable.

Of course, if like I said in the first place, "Night on Earth" had been a series of shorts, or a miniseries or whatever, I wouldn't have had this trouble writing the review. Watch the film and tell me about it.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
Quite captivating.
Julius-1021 June 1999
This picture is most unique, and is really superb in terms of generating interest and capturing the audience's attention. There are excellent performances from great talents like Rosie Perez and Wynona Ryder, and a wonderful early glimpse of Roberto Benigni as the very explicit Italian taxi cabdriver in a scene that is absolutely hilarious. This is a classic small film-it works wonders on the small screen- imagine what it could do as a blockbuster, though it's small screen image gives it an extra boost. In order to catch great films such as these you either have to watch Bravo or attend Film Festivals, which is what makes films such as these rare gems.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
9/10
Frederick Elmes best work
joNNi5 May 2000
Even allowing for Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart, this film probably features the best work of Frederick Elmes' life (Cinematography). The transitions from location to location are beautifully constructed; a series of intimate painterly portraits, introducing you to the vulnerable underbelly of each city. This also applies to the cut scenes between dialogue ... at times I was drooling! The characters are generally so well drawn that we can even forgive Winona Ryder's unconvincing tom-boy mechanic. Each twenty minute story is just long enough to engross and short enough to leave you happy that you didn't waste your time and you're ready for the next. And there's real comedy too ... farce, circus buffoonery and even belly laughs. I must admit, by the last story I did begin to tire a little of the format. It all finishes with not so subtle pathos (which I resisted) which highlights the unrelenting pain of life. Absolutely beautiful. Highly recommended.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
Tragicomical and entertaining
#98 December 1998
Night on Earth... Just another picture that you didn't plan to see, but you just couldn't stop watching when you got to see on your TV set. It's not one great story, but several, and the comical about the driver who doesn't understand the gear box, but lets his passenger drive his car, and the tragical about the Finnish driver whose 14-year-old daughter has got pregnant, is a great mix. Next time it's showing on TV, be sure not to miss it!
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
3/10
Pointless
zetes20 July 2008
I was first introduced to director Jim Jarmusch with Dead Man, and I loathed it. I thought that I had never before seen such an utterly pointless or pretentious movie in my life, and I probably never would again. It was many years later I ventured to watch another Jarmusch film. The second was Stranger Than Paradise and, while I still felt it was fairly pointless, I also felt it had its moments. It was interesting and occasionally aesthetically pleasing. From there, I explored much of the director's filmography, and found a few films that I really liked, foremost among them being Broken Flowers, his most recent. But I'd have to say, the majority of his movies I do find to be rambling exercises in cinematic pointlessness, even if they are sometimes interesting. I even found Dead Man tolerable on the second viewing.

Unfortunately, I have come to Night on Earth, and I'm pretty much right back where I started. Following in the footsteps of the pretty good Mystery Train, Jarmusch directed another film with several different stories in it. This one is comprised of five different nighttime cab rides in five different cities, L.A., New York, Paris, Rome and Helsinki. Basically the film is just about cabbies' interactions with their customers. But there's little, almost nothing, really, of interest in any of these characters or conversations. Only one of the five sequences I found even remotely worth sitting through, the New York City episode, where the only cab black man Giancarlo Esposito can hail belongs to a German immigrant, Armin Mueller-Stahl, fresh off the boat. He doesn't even know how to drive, so Esposito persuades Mueller-Stahl to let him drive instead. Along the way from Manhattan to Brooklyn, they run into Esposito's sister-in-law, Rosie Perez. As in all the segments, nothing much happens during this cab ride, but I did enjoy the little friendship the two men build in the short time they know each other. Even this one ends horribly, though, with Jarmusch leaving Mueller-Stahl in dire straits. The worst segment by far is the Rome one, where Roberto Benigni plays a sunglasses-at-night kind of driver who loves to talk. He picks up a clergyman who becomes stupefied at the driver's chattering. Jarmusch kind of discovered Benigni in Down by Law, and the guy was almost tolerable there. But here he is so over-the-top that I eventually stopped reading the subtitles. I don't know why I just didn't fast-forward it to the final sequence, as none of the sequences are related anyway. This was definitely one of the more painful movies I've watched of late.
9 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
8/10
Four obscure tales from Jim Jarmusch
The_Void10 April 2005
Jim Jarmusch is a filmmaker that you can always rely on to deliver something offbeat and unlike most other films. My only taste of him before seeing this film was the slightly later 'Dead Man', and I found that to be a very worthwhile experience and one that set me up nicely for Night on Earth. Night on Earth isn't quite as trippy as Jarmusch's later film; but it still oozes that odd sense of cool and while you're watching it you're constantly reminded that what you are seeing isn't just any film. This film is split into five sections, all of which tell a story about a taxi in different parts of the world. Part of the reason why this film is so odd is that all of the stories take place at the same time, which creates a very strange feeling while you're watching it. One problem with films that work in this way is that there's always a weak link in the stories; but here there isn't. All of the stories are of high quality, and all are brilliant in different ways. Of course, everyone will have a favourite and mine has got to be the blackly comic one that takes place in Rome!

An excellent ensemble cast, mostly made up of unknowns, helps night on Earth immensely. In fact, it's ironic because the only cast member that doesn't pull her weight is the only one that isn't unknown - Winona Ryder. I'm something of a fan of Ryder; but seeing her in this movie is an awful experience. How anyone could think that she could be cast as a taxi driver, complete with cocky swagger and cigarette in mouth, and get away with it is ludicrous. However, the rest of the cast is really good and all bring realism to their roles. Roberto Benigni is typically over the top, but his performance is very fun and he is an actor that has a great ability to draw you into his performance by the way he speaks. This was capitalised on brilliantly in the masterpiece 'Life is Beautiful', and it's shown here too. The stories in the film don't appear to have an absolute defining point (with the exception of the story in Paris); but it doesn't matter as the musings about life and such are always interesting and the obscure idea of following people in taxis is always amusing. On the whole - a very worthwhile film experience!
6 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? | Report this
loading
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews