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8/10
Wonderfully unique and charming (but perhaps too spare)
drjimmycooper4 June 2005
I just saw this at a press screening. It's very smart, well-made and entertaining, directed with sure-handed control, full of quirky, funny moments and superb acting. The film pretty much avoids clichés, although it does rely a bit on the familiar "Aren't Middle-Americans quirky?" idea for its humor. But Jarmusch never goes too far with this, his restraint keeping the film propelled from beginning to end.

The only weakness for me is rooted in the film's strength: I feel like there's not quite enough here.

Murray's character is beleaguered and despondent, Murray plays him with perfect subtlety. This is fun and fascinating to watch; I found myself hanging onto every little expression on Murray's face. But, the combination of his passive, muted performance and the spare storytelling left me wanting more. It just doesn't have as much impact as I feel it could have. So, yes, it's wonderful minimalism, but perhaps a bit too slight of a movie to have any lasting resonance.

Bill Murray has added another very good performance to his career, and Jim Jarmusch has made another compact little gem (unlike some of his more recent films). Unique and entertaining. Definitely worth seeing.
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6/10
Completely open to interpretation
moonspinner5511 April 2006
Whether it was (shrewdly) planned or not, Bill Murray has become one of our greatest cinematic resources, just as comfortable doing dry comedy as he is acting in a mood piece; his whole melancholy being has become perfect for avant-garde comedy, and this meticulously-mounted and shaded 'dramedy' is a Bill Murray vehicle all the way. The loosely-structured plot deals with calling up the past, which it says you can't really do because it's gone, and not worrying about the future because it isn't here yet. Murray plays a computer businessman, a committed bachelor and "over-the-hill Don Juan", who receives news he might have fathered a child with an ex-girlfriend 20 years ago. The film, helmed under the more effective title "Dead Flowers", is an unintended journey of self-discovery which is purposely incomplete but not pointless; the screenplay leaves the scenario open for discussion, and writer-director Jim Jarmusch structures each sequence in such a cockeyed way that we don't really know where the movie is headed. This is perfect for audiences interested in something a little different, and even if the pacing is dryly solemn or slow, the picture delights in being anti-formula. A very good film, difficult as an entertainment per se and often puzzling or obtuse, though it continues Bill Murray on the path of an actor of incredible taste, decision and consequence. *** from ****
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3/10
A snail's pace with no payoff
Stephanie Lein Walseth20 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
After viewing the trailer, I was hopeful that Broken Flowers might prove to be a subtly humorous and sweet film such as Lost in Translation, which I very much liked. But by the end I, and my family, couldn't believe we had been made to sit through two hours of excruciatingly slow pacing for no seeming reason.

I am not a film buff, but am a theater person. Though I don't know all of Jarmusch's previous films, tactics, or techniques, I do understand some basic principles of storytelling, and I feel that this did not meet them satisfactorily. It is a beautiful and satisfying thing for the writer to leave something to the audiences' imagination, making them engage their imaginations to complete the story rather than remain passive viewers who are spoon fed answers and entertainment.But this can be taken too far, and I felt that the film left too much to the audience, without providing enough meat to sink our imaginations into.

The one really touching moment came,I thought, when at the end of his list of former girlfriends, he visits a graveyard and the gravestone of a former flame. A close shot catches Murray with tears welling in his eyes. This would have been a terrific moment...if we hadn't been made to wait so long that we didn't even care.

I agree with other comments that I saw little to no trace of the Don Juan that could have attracted so many women (including the four women in the film whom he supposedly bedded the same year). Even if he had had an incredible vigor in the past, why would he have a gorgeous girlfriend apparently 20 years his junior at present? And what does he want? I was never able to discover that. Without any seeming motivation and without the development of relationships or any type of build that culminated in anything significant, I felt cheated by the end. Any point that could be made in the film feels like it could have been made in the first 30 minutes. After that it was just more of the same. Whereas Lost in Translation made a statement about the loneliness of two people in a foreign country by its slow pace, it also interwove the pacing with a touching and unconventional relationship that gave the audience something to engage in and watch develop. Nothing seemed to develop here. Which raises the question, Why should we care?
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8/10
Good Movie from an On Again/Off Again Director
evanston_dad31 January 2006
I can't think of an actor better suited to play the expressionless chronic bachelor Don at the heart of Jim Jarmusch's newest movie than Bill Murray. His mournful hound-dog face, which hides any trace of what's going on inside the head on which it sits, stares blankly at the T.V., at other people, sometimes at nothing, betrays itself with the slightest movement of the mouth or twitch of the eyes. It's a characterization Murray has so down pat that I'm tempted to think he's not really acting all that much, but he's so perfectly cast that it doesn't much matter whether he's acting or not.

If you're not familiar with the movies of Jim Jarmusch, "Broken Flowers" is a nice introduction, as it's the most accessible Jarmusch film I've seen. I'm not a huge fan, but I liked this movie quite a lot. Don receives an anonymous letter one day from a past girlfriend, telling him he has a 19-year-old son who may come looking for him. Murray's friend, Winston (played amusingly by the chameleon Jeffrey Wright), convinces him to track down a handful of women who could have possibly been the mother and resolve the mystery. Don agrees to it, seemingly not so much because he has a need to know but because he has nothing better to do. What follows is a series of scenes with each past girlfriend, during which their interactions with Don tell us heaps about their relationship back when they were dating. Some are affectionate, some are distant, one is downright scarily angry, but all are played beautifully by a quartet of actresses: Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton.

This is Jarmusch, so there aren't necessarily any tidy answers, and I don't think I give anything away by saying that the mystery is never solved. Life is messy, and it doesn't always happily resolve itself just because we want it to. I liked how subtle the film was; Don doesn't make any huge ground-breaking discoveries about himself, but nevertheless you sense that he's a slightly different person after his journey than he was before it.

You'll have to be patient, as Jarmusch tells his story very slowly, and nearly all of Don's interaction with others is ponderously awkward. But the movie slowly begins to fascinate, and you find yourself watching the faces of the women he visits (and examining the visible details of their lives) much in the same way that Don is himself, looking for the slightest hint that she might be the one who sent that fateful letter.

A very fine film, poignant and sad in a rather obscure way, and one that stays in your mind for a while after seeing it.

Grade: A-
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9/10
Another quiet and beautiful film
mcshortfilm5 August 2005
There has been a lot of talk that "Broken Flowers" is Jim Jarmusch's most commercially accessible film to date. One can almost hear Jarmusch muttering something reactionary like "commercial? That's just a label." It's a label that some Jarmusch fans might associate with "selling out". But selling out does not apply to Jim Jarmusch. He still has complete control of his work and is still the only American filmmaker who owns his own negatives. If "Broken Flowers" does break into the mainstream, it is nothing overly deliberate. Jarmusch makes familiar films that seem intimate in their tone. He toys with old themes while still leaving his films open to interpretation.

"Broken Flowers" is a travelogue and like most Jarmusch films, the story is more concerned with the journey but not so much about the destination. Bill Murray plays Don Johnston, a man who we know little about. We know he's single and we know he's had some flame's in the past. The last one just walked out on him. When Don receives an anonymous letter from one of these old flames, he learns that he has a twenty year old son who might be looking for him." Don thinks this is a joke but takes the advice from a friend to unfold the mystery by tracking down his past flings. He flies somewhere to a generic American place, rents a car and begins his investigation. Each ex has an individual personality but most of them share something similar. They are content and have moved on from the past. One of the ex's we meet works in real estate and decides it would be a good idea for her to get into the water business because "one day in the near future it will be more valuable then oil." The atmosphere is awkward and rather then care whether this woman is responsible for the anonymous letter, we just feel like getting out of there. The film's journey is absurd in many ways because we are never sure what the real point is. What is Don going to do if he does find his son? This where Bill Murray's credit as an actor shines through. We see from his small facial gestures that he is empty, and sad. There is a sense of longing as if life took a wrong turn somewhere and it is only now that he is realizing it. The ending of "Broken Flowers" is what really makes the film special. Don't expect too much or too little. Just see it. Its inspiring, hopeful and better then any other movie this year. The film also has a great soundtrack by Ethiopian musician, Mulatu Astatke. And we see in the credits that Jarmusch dedicated the film to French filmmaker Jean Eustache. Jean Eustache made a phenomenal film in the 1960's titled, "The Mother and The Whore". He had an influence on John Cassavetes and likewise both had an influence on Jim Jarmusch.
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9/10
An Exquisite Little Film
davetex15 May 2007
I never saw this movie when it came to the theater. Later on, when it arrived on video, the clerks at the local store rolled their eyes and told stories of renters returning it and complaining that it wasn't funny and was boring. So I didn't rent it, being the mindless lemming that would listen to a video store clerk.

Then I stumbled across it on one of the TV movie channels and sat down and watched it. Perhaps it was the lack of any expectations on my part, but I found this movie fascinating. Bill Murray has cornered the market on middle aged male guilt and regret. Between this film, Lost in Translation and the Life Aquatic he presents us with a very real sense of what it means to be in your mid fifties and contemplating all that has been missed while pursuing something else.

The movie moves slowly, at a measured pace, but it has to, because that is how the story unfolds, with the protagonist moving down the road of his past reluctantly, and with trepidation and rightly so, because he has left skeletons behind. Many of them, it would appear.

Bill Murray was always my favorite SNL guy and he never disappoints, always taking whatever role he is given and doing it well, and doing it as only Bill Murray can. David Spade and Chevy Chase, eat your hearts out. Actually, just retire. But I digress.

The supporting cast deserves kudos as well. For once, I liked Sharon Stone in a movie. Francis Conroy does her Six Feet Under persona but manages to spin it a little differently, and Jessice Lange is mesmerizing as always. And Jeffrey Wright, as Winston is a perfect foil for the perpetually deadpan Murray.

But in fairness, I suspect that you have to be middle aged and male to really love this movie and all of its wisdom.
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A low-key picaresque
jdesando16 August 2005
Barely dramatic, thematic but enigmatic, that's Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers. His Stranger than Paradise was exactly that, a Cleveland road trip to existential uncertainty. In Broken Flowers, Bill Murray as Don Johnston is also on a trip, but more certain of his goal than anyone in Stranger, for he seeks out his alleged son by visiting former lovers, one of whom anonymously wrote that she had borne him a child 19 years ago.

The formidable women, including a randy Sharon Stone happily lampooning her film persona and Tilda Swinton, tougher and more dangerous than all the others in her biker mom role, never really sway him from seeking his son or finding himself. Beyond discovering that you can't change the past of "an over-the-hill Don Juan," much less understand him, reflected in the depressing but authentic lack of communication with all but one of his wives, Murray may have discovered on his low-key picaresque a truer self than he had ever known before. He may be beaten up physically, he may be unable to close the case of his putative son, and he may have divorced himself from his millionaire persona as a computer whiz, but he remains a deeply calm, lonely wanderer in his effort to solve his case.

An amateur detective, neighbor Winston has the spirit and energy Don does not have, yet Don is deeper and more reflective. In fact he outstrips all of his former loves in kindness and caring in calm response to often explosive situations, for instance when Stone's daughter, Lolita, comes on to him only to find he is not available.

I complain American films are not sophisticated like Euro flicks, but Jarmusch has come close with this slow, laconic, and demanding indie. Hats off to Bill Murray for mixing minimalist with passionate this time around—his purpose and his change of character make his aging Hollywood star Bob from Lost in Translation just a dress rehearsal for this Oscar-worthy performance and film.

Perhaps Don's discovery is twofold: his potential to love others and himself. As Alexander Smith declared, "Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others, and the delight in the recognition."
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1/10
An insult to the intelligence
rog-525 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Bill Murray plays an ageing Lothario, a formerly successful businessman (though from the dullard we see it's hard to believe) with enough money that he doesn't need to work, who consequently lives a pointless and empty life. One day he's contacted by an old girlfriend who tells him that the son he never knew he had might just turn up on his doorstep.

Not knowing who sent the letter, he sets out to visit four possible candidates. After we've been invited to sneer at each of them in turn – their absurd jobs, their empty lives – he is back home, not knowing which one sent the letter, whether it was actually sent by a more recent girlfriend as a prank, or even whether a young man who's just arrived in town might be his son.

The film's message seems to be that unless you're, say, an independent film-maker named Jim Jarmusch, your so-called life is a pointless waste of which you ought to be embarrassed. This kind of cheap and lazy nihilism is just so boring, and the non-ending suggests that even Jarmusch couldn't be bothered with it any more. This film is designed to impress the kind of people who assume that any film without obvious interest or appeal must therefore be "arty". No, it's just tedious, flabby, self-indulgent and a waste of the talent of Bill Murray, who might as well have been replaced by a waxwork for most of it.
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3/10
Films Should At Least Have Endings
dylan91531 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Unfortunately, I happened to see Broken Flowers yesterday, I found that movie to be totally void of any purpose beyond teasing the emotions of the viewers only to leave them with nothing in the end. Here's a film that brings on some older classic actors, and embarks on a voyage where a man goes seeking for a missing component to his life, and despite his many encounters with his past, there is little or no resolve to his quest. In fact, the film draws one into a state of empathy towards this man, only to leave you at the end in the middle of the street, with absolutely nothing solved..It was as if the camera simply ran out of film. I thought, if nothing else, perhaps the young man, could have, at the last moment, come back around the corner, down the street, and started walking back towards Murry. This would have condoned the films purpose, but instead a man just stands near the end of his life in total bewilderment.. God I hope this is not the new trend for script writing. I understand that our culture has become so apathetic to compassion, but it doesn't make great drama for those seeking hope to be left after two hours of commitment to a film with no other feeling than a total sense of despair..( and frustration)
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1/10
ending key
Dana Day20 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
You've read the plot in the previous comments. You've heard the movie moves slowly - but you can't grasp HOW slow this is until you see it. I like Bill Murray, but not in these last three deadpan movies.

I'm sorry, but all he does is sit there and look depressed - it's like watching paint peel - except peeling pain is more expressive.

Symbolism is present in the movie, and that can be nice when it is surrounded by some actual action, dialogue, plot, climax etc. - the basic elements that are missing in this movie.

What I can't believe people are not mentioning, is that Bill's ACTUAL SON, HOMER MURRAY, is the kid in the car at the end. I think we were suppose to recognize the genetics and GET that our hero is standing there in the cross roads of the street, stupefied, because Don Johnston recognizes the resemblance and now knows he's a father, and his life perhaps will never be the same - hence the crossroads. The lack of conversation about the use of his actual son in the movie, makes me think that almost nobody recognized the genetic resemblance and/or failed to read the credits and therefore missed that particular point.

Without knowing, that the boy is the character's,(and the actor's),son, the ending is pointless - so of course you leave it feeling let down.
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1/10
What is going on!@!@!@!
decoolest5 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I always logged on to IMDb For reviews on movies and ratings before i rented out or bought a DVD or booked theater tickets and i have never been disappointed but this time I was seriously disappointed. I mean what is this movie about? Is this some kind of sick joke. I mean this movie was really really bad. It made no sense at all. Everybody seems so dead and the story drags on and on till the audience themselves dead, i think this story writer and this director need to break their head on a brick wall. I love bill in Lost in translation which was a real good movie and that made me hate this movie even more the fact that this director wasted bill's talent on such a freaky dumb subject. this movie is as bad as gigli if not more. Don't see and don't waste your time go and watch birds fly if you really feel like wasting time. Lastly can i know why this has a 7 star rating. ?????
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9/10
Broken Flowers: a tragi-comic visual poem.
keith-farman-16 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Broken Flowers - Jim Jarmusch Jim Jarmusch writes movies. I don't mean he writes screenplays - though he does. No, he uses images the way a poet uses words. No waste. Every image carries weight. Resonates. Certainly his two most recent movies, Coffee and Cigarettes and now Broken Flowers are visual poems. Broken Flowers, unlike C&C is a narrative poem. It is a short, beautifully composed short story with Bill Murray's Don Johnston - with a 't' - at its heart.

In a sadly now lost interview, Steve McQueen once said a man should feel as much as possible and show as little as possible. This unfashionable conception deserves deeper examination than our contemporary conventional wisdom is likely to give it, but it sums up Don Johnston literally to a 't'. However subtle, Bill Murray's humour is delightfully accessible. The deeper emotions of his more serious characters are harder to read. And his extraordinary, almost unique 'innerness' as an actor makes you work hard. In a superb performance in an excellent film, it is a fine judgement as to whether he might have given us just a little bit more colour and shading. We can see only too well why the women in his life kept leaving him but he makes us work a bit to see why they would have been with him in the first place. Murrray has cornered the market in men who can give but not take - Bob Harris in Lost In Translation and now Don Johnston in Broken Flowers. In a key piece of dialogue early on, as current partner Sherry (Julie Delpy), follows the other women in Don's life - out of it - he asks "what do you want Sherry?" She replies "what do you want Don?" And he's stumped. One feels Sherry would settle for any answer but not for none.

When he receives an unsigned letter from an ex-girlfriend, amateur sleuth neighbour Winston (Jeffrey Wright) cajoles Don onto a reverse road trip of his life. The distinctive typed missive, addressed in red writing on a pink envelope, excites Winston's forensic aspirations and informs Don that his hitherto unmarried, unparented life actually created an unknown son 20 years ago, For Winston this is an intriguing mystery to be unravelled. For a reluctant Don it draws him into revisiting his former selves through the women he once either loved, or bedded; or (it is left unclear), perhaps both.

Broken Flowers, although like C&C, visually poetic in form and style, is more short story in content. So simple, pared down and explicitly existential in spirit, it brings Camus to mind. Pretentious thought that may sound, Jarmusch's poetic visual style has all the direct simplicity and philosophical resonance of Camus' prose. Asked for some 'fatherly' wisdom, Don apologetically replies, "The past is gone - I know that. And the future is still to come. So I guess there is just now." Outside the context of this elusive and allusive film, these remarks sound like a banal tautology. But there's the art. Jarmusch's art. His simple film 'language' resonates with feeling and, unusually for movies - ideas. Poetic. And if philosophical ideas seem a fanciful allusion for simple words, a remark of Wittgenstein's comes to mind when he observed that despite its apparent form, the expression "War is war" is no mere tautology.

As in C&C, but to a lesser extent, Broken Flowers has an episodic 'chapter'-like structure. Or more precisely, series of verses. And Jarmusch's cinematic style has a distinctive literary feel to it. His editing quietly 'punctuates' each scene and sequence precisely and without distraction. The full stops and commas of cuts and fades, provide a clear narrative structure, so that when the camera or the lens move, or the shot is held, it is precisely the contrast that makes it work so well. And like a good poet, Jarmusch likes to leave words, images and phrases hanging in the air. Unexplained. Unresolved. Jarmusch's great quality as a filmmaker is that his work is participative - a dialogue with his audience and their own experience. And like all good poems Broken Flowers will mean different things to different people even though its basic facts are not in doubt. In his art, the facts are the starting point, not the end. Want facts as conclusion, resolution - an answer? Try science. Or Hollywood.

Broken Flowers is, as the old saying has it, a mystery wrapped in an enigma: Winston's mystery - Don's enigma. Its ending is as satisfying, as it is unresolved. Murray doesn't so much show us Don's emotional life, still less act it, rather he lets small glimpses of it escape. His tears over the ex-girlfriend who died in a car crash; his sense of failure about Sherry; his warmth and understated friendship with Winston and his family. But poignantly, we see he wants to have had a son. Wants them to find each other. Murray superbly insinuates to us a man full of feeling who is bemused by his own inability to find a way to let it out. As in many of his characterisations - a genuinely tragi-comic figure.

Zettel 2005
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3/10
Yet Another Catatonic Film by Jarmusch
kaz148829 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I just can't stand Jarmusch. He's under the impression that watching uninteresting people do absolutely nothing is art. It's not art. It's like sending my grandfather with a handi-cam around for a day and watching the footage. Murray is a good actor, but any actor working with a script like this would crash and burn as Murray did. People claim to like this film because it's "the most non-mainstream/mainstream film". Psudo-intellectuals are having a ball with that statement. They love to think they're different because they like a movie with no conclusions.

It's sad that the whole film was strongly pushing for continuation of the plot, yet nothing ever gets resolved. In the end Murray has no idea who his son is. There are so many different possibilities. I personally wanted an ending like Sideways. An ending where you know who it is, but there's absolutely no interaction between them, they just know.

But no, in the end Murray is exactly the same. Nothing happened...literally. People can say, "Nothing needs to happen". That's fine with me, if that's what you truly like to watch, but personally I'd rather not watch a film with literally no point, un-interesting characters, no chemistry at all and an excuse for unintelligent people to enjoy something that isn't a romantic comedy. Jarmusch will always refuse to have anything actually happen in his films...it's sad...maybe he's depressed?

Oh and before I forget...Jarmusch wrote the script in two and a half weeks. I'm sorry to say...it shows. The only films I can think of that were written that quickly and pulled it off were, Do the Right Thing and Reservoir Dogs. Do the Right Thing had an amazing message and characters you actually care about and Reservoir Dogs was a great character study with a REAL ending.

I do want to thank Jim Jarmusch though. I'm writing my fourth screenplay right now and I got so bored in the theater that I actually figured out how to end it. I got some good thinking time. A dark place, nothing going on, good combination for thinking. Bad combination for watching a film that's supposed to be very good.
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10/10
Pink flower arrangements
jotix10020 August 2005
Jim Jarmusch returns to the screen with an immensely pleasing film that looks extremely simple, but in fact, it's what is not being said that really is at the center of the picture. Mr. Jarmusch is one director that loves to work with an economy of everything. His films seem to be crying for a set decorator, but that is misleading, because it's the simplicity that seems to work in most cases.

If you haven't seen the film, perhaps you should stop reading here.

At the center of the story is Don Johnston, whose name seems to provoke in most people a recognition by associating it to the actor, Don Johnson. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Don is a taciturn man, who when we meet him is being dumped by his last girlfriend.

Don Johnston, with his deadpan demeanor, appears to be a man that has gone through life on auto pilot. In fact, when he receives the letter that will, in a way, change his life, he doesn't even react. His solution to the problem is to show this letter to his next door neighbor, Winston. Little does Don knows, but Winston maps out a plan to get him involved in the solution of the mystery he is presented. We accompany Don in a trip of discovery to reacquaint himself with former lovers who might have been instrumental in sending the pink letter.

Thus we meet Laura, the closet organizer, a widow now, living with a precocious daughter, Lolita, who seems to have jumped from the Nabokov's book, in all her precociousness. Then, there is Dora, the real estate woman who lives in a development in which all the houses look alike. We meet Carmen, the pet communicator, a sort of animal analyst who has turned her love interest another way. Finally, we are given a glimpse of Penny, who couldn't care less to see Don one more time.

The opening sequence that sets the story in motion is nothing but perfection. We watch the fateful letter at the beginning when it's being dropped in the mail box right up to its delivery through Don's mail slot.

Jim Jarmusch, and his amazing cast have done wonders with this film. Bill Murray is sensational as the jaded Don Johnston. Once again, this actor clearly shows he is at the top of the game. Jeffrey Wright, one of the best young actors working in films and in the theater these days, makes a valuable contribution as Winston. The women in Don's life are fantastic. Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Julie Delpy, Tilda Swinton, and Jessica Lange are seen at their best. Finally, two excellent turns by Alexis Dziena as Lolita and Chloe Sevigny as an assistant to Carmen.

Mr. Jarmusch has created a film that says a lot about how modern relationships are being practiced these days.
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4/10
The Emporer Has No Clothes...
LaurieMann28 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
After a year of mostly disappointing movies, this movie is just another of a pretty bad lot.

Don't get me wrong - I LOVE quiet, well-observed movies. I love movies where there's no real violence. I love movies where weird characters wander in and out. I don't even mind movies without a real conclusion. I should have adored this movie. I came close to HATING this movie.

At least one person walked out of this movie after 20 minutes, never to return. A number of people in the audience at the end kind of went "What happened?" Makes you wonder why the critics have universally loved this movie, because there's NOTHING (and I mean NOTHING) there, beyond some cryptic performances by some of our better actresses.

I'm not the biggest Bill Murray fan, but I liked him in Groundhog Day and in Lost in Translation. With the right material, he's an interesting actor. This was categorically the wrong material. The problem is much more with the writing and directing than with the acting. But the acting just doesn't make the material any more interesting.

Here's the problem - the movie is, from start to finish, absolutely and completely illogical. There isn't a true moment anywhere in the movie.

Maybe it's a movie about a man who never really had a life and has a long nightmare about "what might have been." What if a woman I'd been involved with came back and told me I had a child I never expected to have?

First problem - Don Johnston (Bill Murray). People keep talking about him as a "Don Juan," and that point is further driven home by the fact that Johnston is watching a movie about Don Juan. But he completely fails to relate to people (men OR women) on any level. Granted, he is shown to be financially well-off. Money certainly can make many people attractive. But he was apparently involved with these women earlier in his life when he wasn't wealthy.

Second problem - Winston (Jeffrey Wright). At first, I thought Winston was Don's paid assistant. Turns out, he says he works three jobs, has aspirations to be a writer, is married and has five children. How in the world would he have the time to help Murray to the extent he does? I liked their friendship, and the way Winston was trying to get Don to get involved in his own life rather than be a passive observer. But does he simply never sleep?

Third problem - Lolita (Alexis Dziena). Like Jeffrey Wright, the problem is not with the performer, but with the way s/he is written. The kid is named Lolita. So how does she behave? Exactly like Lolita. It was like she walked out of the book/movie of that name. And, at one point, she just walks naked in front of Johnston. In real life, have you ever seen a 15-year-old walk naked in front of a 55 year old stranger? Now, there's a point later in the movie where Johnston dreams of that moment. It might have made a little more sense for him to have dreamed of her naked - that he was never "Don Juan" but might have wanted to be. True, a moment like that would have looked like it dropped out of American Beauty, but I think it would have made more sense.

No matter how much you enjoy Frances Conroy or Jessica Lange or Sharon Stone or Tilda Swinton (who's only very briefly in the movie and is completely unrecognizable), it isn't worth going to this movie to see them.

Eleven years ago, many of us found Four Weddings and a Funeral very enjoyable. That said, many of us were wildly frustrated by the character of Carrie (Andi MacDowell), who behaved quite illogically. Imagine a movie where none of the characters are quite so colorful and all of them act completely illogically. And there you have the problem with Broken Flowers.

Another problem is with the "road trip" itself. You see Bill Murray getting on planes and "flying around the country." At one point, his rental car seems to have a Colorado license plate. It's obvious from the scenery that he never really leaves the Northeast. It turns out to have been completely filmed in upstate New York and New Jersey. No surprise there.

So maybe the whole movie is just one man's "fantasy trip." If that's the case, the movie was just impossibly dull, dull, dull.

Laurie Mann Movie Corner http://www.dpsinfo.com/movies
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10/10
one of Jarmusch's (and Murray's) best
MisterWhiplash12 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It would be hard for me to recommend this film to some people, even if as a particular film-goer as myself it kept me in my seat as it went by with its deliberate (or slow as most would put it) pace. For an actor like Bill Murray, this is a 180 turn from his classic comedy roles in Caddyshack and Ghostbusters (both films I love for his style of quick witted, instantly quotable lines)- this time, as I've read, he and writer/director Jim Jarmusch took the subtle, subdued approach of Buster Keaton, but done all Murray's way. He continues the sort of 'phase' he's been in starting with Lost in Translation and going somewhat into The Life Acquatic- now his is reactions which make up the best parts, and the occasional zingers work well against the supporting cast.

The reason one might consider Broken Flowers as Jarmusch's most 'mainstream' film is because it is filmed a little more like one, very steady camera-work, and seeming a little more like a Hollywood type film with the cast (Sharon Stone, Francis Conroy, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Jeffrey Wright among others). And the story seems like something one might find in a conventional romantic comedy- Murray plays Don Johnston (not Johnson, as a running joke in the film), a fading Don Juan type who is very well off but also rather isolated with himself. Around the same time his current girlfriend leaves him, he finds a mysterious pink colored letter in a pink envelope. Wright, playing an amusing neighbor of Don's, sets him up to go on a search to find the long lost son the letter alludes to. He reluctantly goes on the search.

What is interesting about a filmmaker like Jarmusch, with only a few others I can think of, is that his pace and style and way the film unfolds, my heartbeat never goes too fast or too slow with the rhythm, and it stays consistent. When the climax to the film comes, it's more contemplative than exciting. As Don visits the four women, who each give him something different to offer (if not answering his questions for the 'mystery'), the comedy kicks in, but as with the scenes with Wright's character Winston, it's not often 'laugh-out loud' funny, but the wit is there. Some of it is surprising (the daughter character, Lolita, brings a big laugh), and just strange (Lange's job as an 'animal communicator'), but it's often not so much about hitting for big punches as for more realistic ones. We get long (some might say too long) breaks as Don drives in his car, and then something more comes along. For me, at least, it was rather compelling in a minimalist way, which is what Jarmusch is a master of.

Some have said that the ending was unfulfilled, that it didn't serve a purpose and left the film with unanswered questions. I found the ending to really be even more fulfilling, perhaps on an existential or some kind of unspeakable level, than something that would typically be cooked up in Hollywood. As Murray stand in the street, the camera moving around him and stopping on him, it had me thinking and finally feeling some emotional attachment to Don. Early in the film, he's almost too subdued, and has an upper-middle class status that brings a detachment like with a lead in an Antonioni film. He says he's content with being on his own doing whatever, but by the end he has come full circle. Murray plays these last couple of scenes wonderfully, bringing one to see that the film is not about the usual solving of a mystery of 'who is my son'.

It's about searching, and finding a connectedness to people. This, again, may sound off-putting to people who just want to be simply entertained, and it may be boring &/or pretentious to the core mainstream fans of Murray. But his performance, and Jarmusch's direction, makes its best way in a realm of its own, taking a simple premise and giving it an original take, and substance, and a specific rhythm. In other words, Jarmusch fans need not be frightened that it looks less 'artsy' than a film like Dead Man or Mystery Train, and for those who loved Murray's work in Lost in Translation will find a similar wavelength to cling to.
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7/10
Elliptical Road Trip Sparked by Fine Performances and Subtle Revelations
Ed Uyeshima20 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Like his role models Yasujiro Ozu and Robert Bresson, accomplished indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch provides his typically slow-moving, elliptical ride of a movie by placing Bill Murray squarely in the driver's seat of this sometimes hilarious, more often bittersweet road film. The episodic structure and constant sense of dislocation draw the viewer into an idiosyncratic world filled with knowing glances and almost subliminal comments. Your enjoyment of the film will depend on how much things need to be spelled out for you, as Jarmusch the screenwriter prefers to drive a story by insinuation.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around lifelong bachelor Don Johnston, the subject of too many "Miami Vice" jokes, who opens a letter, typewritten on pink stationery, informing him that he has a 19-year-old son who may soon show up on his doorstep. The letter is unsigned, which tweaks the interest of Don's best friend and next-door neighbor Winston, an enthusiastic and persistent amateur sleuth. It is Winston who tracks down Don's ex-girlfriends across the country and organizes a trip for Don to meet and subtly ask each one a series of questions that may lead him to conclude who is the mother who penned the letter.

The subsequent film really provides mini-showcases for four fine veteran actresses (Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton), who pierce through the hearts of their characters with minimum fuss. Don pretty much remains a cipher throughout these encounters, as he gleans just enough information to tell him what he needs to know. He first meets up with Laura, a recent widow with an exhibitionist adolescent daughter named appropriately Lolita. Looking as beautiful as ever, Stone underplays her white trash role with surprising subtlety, even as she vividly describes her race car husband's fiery death and chats about her calling as a closet organizer.

Next on Don's list is Dora, an uptight real estate agent married to a fellow glad-hand agent, who seems to be bubbling just below the surface about Don's sudden appearance. Conroy, ideally cast in a controlling variation of her Ruth Fisher character on "Six Feet Under", gives a nuanced performance of a woman cracking slowly within the walls of a perfect, pre-fab home. The next stop is at the office of renowned "animal communicator" Carmen, an edgy professional who has apparently abandoned men for animals and a misogynistic receptionist (played with an ideal sense of passive malice by Chloë Sevigny). Lange plays Carmen in sharp, unapologetic detail, conveying the bitterness she holds toward the type of man Don represents to her.

The last encounter is with an even more embittered biker chick named Penny, played with seething force by an almost completely unrecognizable Swinton, who is in turn, defended by a couple of hyper-sensitive, mullet-head bikers. What happens from all these episodes toward its intriguing conclusion will not satisfy those looking for closure, but Jarmusch provides enough emotional baggage for Don to recognize what his journey means to him and to us.

Murray is his typical deadpan self here, but he still maintains that peculiar sense of goodwill he has without which the character would have been simply insufferable. With a Jamaican accent, Jeffrey Wright is wryly comical as Winston even as his curiosity gets the best of him. Also worth mentioning are Pell James' sweet turn as a sympathetic flower shop clerk and Mulatu Astatke's jazzy musical score. Well worth watching for those who like to come to their own interpretations when observing the lives presented by Jarmusch and their personal histories of which we can only speculate.
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1/10
too much art school poop ( and i went to art school)
helloaaron22 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
this movie was a 4 at best going into the final scenes where it quickly nose dived into a real stinker.. a 1! One of those endings where you wanna say no way to the whole thing.. another bill Murray movie where the reviews say it was the funniest movie since ghost busters.. WHAT? I love bill Murray and I loved lost in translation.. but this had no point.. except that it has no point.. oh just like life.. there is no point? ugh! i HATED IT.. one of the worst films i have ever seen. To be more critical and in depth.. i understand that it was supposed to be a very "slow" and soul searching trip for Bill.. but it was kind of trying to be hip in that not hip way.. oh what did it all mean every one of his x girlfriends had pink, and the letter he got was pink.. Jim Jarmusch did not know, we do not know.. no one knows! so who cares? OK who cares? i really really was . and YES that was bill Murray's real f-in son in the car.
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1/10
Movie tries to build a plot, but fails miserably
barry-acker15 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Don't waste your money or time seeing this movie. Bill Murray plays a miserable bachelor who gets a letter (in pink stationary) in the mail from an unknown sender claiming she has had a child fathered by him. Bill, prompted by his next door neighbor who has several children, 3 jobs, but still has time to help build an itinerary for Bill to visit all past lovers to find out who is the mother, sets out on a journey across the country. Each encounter is an opportunity to build an interesting storyline--but fails miserably to do so. Bill is a dead-pan faced throughout the entire movie and exhibits little emotion on any level. The nude scene is totally uncalled for and not relevant to anything in the scene. At the movie's conclusion you expect after all this storyline building that there will a some kind of resolution to his problem or at least a twist in the story--There is not and you will be extremely dissatisfied and walk out of the theater wondering what you saw and why you wasted you time and money on it. Lost in translation was almost as bad. This will undoubtedly be the last Bill Murray movie I will see-- he simply is not funny or talented anymore.
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2/10
Weak Sequel
tameyer28 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is the unsuccessful sequel to Lost in Translation that shows no understanding of what made the original work. It is an hour and forty-five minutes of Bill Murray making faces, pretty scenery going to and from airports, a series of ambiguous clues and a mystery that is resolved only by the credits rolling. The dialog is calculated, the humor is either overly broad and flat or simply flat, with punchlines than never arrive. This movie has the muted tones of an art film, but there is little art. There are only the same ingredients, thrown together with a prayer, but it is a prayer that is not answered. Rarely have I felt so mislead by popular critics.
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9/10
JARMISH+MURRAY=Brilliance
wonderjo6 August 2005
I can't say I'm a Jim Jarmish fan. However, this collaboration with Bill Murray brought the best out of both of them. Bill is just amazing anyway. His acting draws the viewer in to his world. The saying " less is more" Murray epitomizes. Jarmish plays with the same idea and allows silence to act in this film. The mood the stark film quality and story give all the actors room to breath. Every scene is an evolution into unfolding feeling.

Basically, this film seemed written for Murray's effortlessness acting style. Yet Murray's character is played at first with almost totally non-vulnerability… you want him to open up. But all the time you see glimmers of him doing just that and then you even appreciate his stuck-ness.

All the other actors are wonderful as well. I have seen Sharon Stone's acting as someone trying to hard, but people, she was just crazy and alive in her role in this film. She changed my mind. Jessica Lange's performance is just perfect. What a woman. All in all I must give this film 2 thumbs up and my big toes are saluting it as well. Funny, thoughtful and very entertaining. Bravo.
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9/10
In full bloom
riderpridethemovie7 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Films this restrained can only be made by an experienced filmmaker, a guy who knows what he wants to say and how to say it and doesn't have to worry about impressing everyone with witty banter or fancy camera tricks. Broken Flowers is so restrained, I'm sure it will elicit some of the same responses Bill Murray's last two films (The Life Aquatic, Lost in Translation) received, mainly — what's the big fuss about? The big fuss is that like Jim Jarmusch, Murray's an experienced craftsman, who understands that true talent lies in how much you give to your supporting actors, not in how much spotlight you take. Movie acting is all in the eyes and subtle body language, not in bombast. but mostly it's in being able to listen to your fellow actors. It's counterintuitive, that a visual medium relies so much on quiet, but it's what separates the great performances from the over-hyped. Let's hope that a subtle movie like this one avoids massive media attention, as that would be missing its point. And what, many may ask, is the point of Broken Flowers. At the screening I attended many were confused, others disappointed by the ending. Indeed, if there is one niggling detail that separates this film from perfection, it is the ending. Of course, Indian rugmakers intentionally weave mistakes into their wares, because they believe only God is perfect, my point being that the theme of this film is that in a quest for meaning, sometimes we learn there is no answer or that the answer is complex. In this case, Jarmusch seems to be saying that meaning is already present, but you might only glean it if you are prepared. Murray's character, Don Johnston (with a "T"), only went on the road trip at his neighbour's urging, and clearly felt the whole thing was nonsense. His attitude may have caused him to miss the mystery, but discover new truths. Similarly, the audience may become too fixated with solving the mystery of who the mother of his son is and miss the other truths, namely that Johnston already has a family with his next-door neighbours, and he already has a relationship as good as he would have had with any of his past flames. The pink typewritten letter, the long-lost son, they are not the point of his life. As Johnston himself says, "The past is gone, the future's not here yet. All there is is now."
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1/10
A parlor trick to fool the audience into thinking that the mundane is meaningful
yaadpyar26 August 2005
After sitting through this movie, I felt I had just seen a bad student film. There's a great premise - modern Don Juan re-visits past to find if something lasting came from his former relationships (in the form of a son), but the most uninteresting choices have been made here. There is almost no character development, no story development that engages the viewer in any significant way, and a cast of characters that are cartoonish in their broadly drawn quirkiness: the aging Don Juan, the out-of-control Lolita, the warm family-man, the biker chic, the lost young man searching for meaning...this is a stable of old characters that take up time and space in this movie, but add nothing of substance.

We are reminded in every possible way that this man is a "Don Juan" and yet NOTHING in the story or character development suggests how someone so broken, so numb, so completely uninterested in life or people, could be that sort of man. We have no idea how or why he has become so broken, and so ultimately don't much care that he is. No light is shed on this at any point - the movie is just one long dip into a stagnant pool of listless nothingness.

I can only imagine that the transitions between scenes of simply fading to black again and again and again, and the endless travel footage (Don in plane, Don in car, Don reading map, Don sleeping in hotel) were one of three things: lack of imagination, self-indulgence or laziness. I can think of no other reasons as this just adds to the stultifying feel of the movie. The parallel between the film's pace and Don's life seems like an amateurish parlor trick to fool the audience into thinking that the mundane is meaningful - not in this movie! Here, the mundane is just plain old boring. All the symbolism is lurid in its obviousness (ex: Don watching the old/original "Don Juan" movie on TV as his life unravels) while the character/story development is so subtle as to be non-existent.

I could not imagine a more uninteresting use of major acting talent (not just Bill Murray, but the whole cast). In so many instances, the Don Juan theme seems a license for the director to show off the physical attributes of younger women - how else can naked Lolita possibly be justified in this story. Oddly, it doesn't seem to be Bill Murray's Don himself who is interested in these women, making the display of skin even more gratuitous.

I'm guessing the lack of resolution at the end was supposed to be indicative of Don's ambivalence about life's direction, but it just looked/felt like the scriptwriter had run out of ideas and so ended the movie. We were quite unsure that the movie had actually ended, and I felt so cheated as I left my seat. $9 and 2 hours of my time spent with characters I didn't get to know or like, and a story that went nowhere in the worst way - UGH!

If this had in fact been a student film, any good professor would have suggested that Jarmusch trim the self-conscious "subtlety" and develop a story worth watching.
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"Comes the broken flower, comes the cheated maid" - "Trial by Jury", Gilbert and Sullivan
Harry T. Yung9 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
(watched in Toronto)

"Broken flowers" won the 2005 Cannes Grand Prix award, which should not be a surprise as Jim Jarmusch has always been loved by the French.

The title however I connect immediately with the lyrics in one of my most favourite Gilbert and Sullivan numbers, in Trial by Jury:

"Comes the broken flower

Comes the cheated maid

Though the tempest lower

Rain and cloud will fade."

This connection is not entirely irrelevant, if we look at some more lyrics in this G&S's shortest operetta, the defendant's plead to the judge on his reason for deserting the young lady, the plaintiff:

"One cannot eat breakfast all day,

Nor is it the act of a sinner,

When breakfast is taken away,

To turn his attention to dinner.

And it's not in the range of belief,

To look upon him as a glutton,

Who, when he is tired of beef,

Determines to tackle the mutton."

This is exactly the plight of Don Johnston (Bill Murray) in the movie, albeit it examines the consequences rather than the process of Don Juan-ism. But while G&S strives on exaggeration, Jarmusch is all minimalism.

This episodic film starts with Sherry (Julia Delpy) walking out on Don, refusing to be his "mistress" playing second fiddle to the remote control of his plasma screen. An anonymous letter in a pink envelop announcing an upcoming visit from a hitherto unknown 19-year-old son and well-intentioned pressure from neighbour Winston (Jeffrey Wright) send Don on a quest to look for the mysterious mother from among five of his old girlfriends. Equipped with a bouquet of pink flowers (a fitting motif) on every call, Don starts out hopeful, but soon finds that the experience is one continuous downhill slide.

Starting out pleasantly enough, the encounter with widowed Laura (Sharon Stone) ends in one night spent with her, presumably for old time's sake. She even asks him to come back whenever he likes, but her daughter who likes to walk around the house with nothing on, appropriately named Lolita, is somewhat disturbing. The flowers are well received.

Next come Dora (Frances Conroy) and her husband Ron, affluent real estate agents, who invite him to stay for dinner. While the meal is friendly enough, the conversation is quite awkward, not exactly what Don would consider a happy reunion with Dora. The flowers are received but embarrassingly placed under a painting which they resemble.

"Animal communicator" (whatever that means) Carmen (Jessica Lange) is not unhappy to see Don but does not have much time for him, and it's plain to see that there is something between her and the attractive assistant (Chloe Sevigny – if you've seen her in "Shattered Glass" and "Melinda and Melinda" you would likely be watching out for her other movies). The flowers are returned to Don by this assistant (we never learn her name) at his car before he drives away.

High strung Penny (Tilda Swinton) greets Don with obscenity, just keeps asking what he wants and flies off the handle at his mention of the word "son". The end result is his getting a black and bloody eye from one of the rough characters she stays with. The flowers become a pile of garbage.

The fifth ex-girl friend receives her flowers passively, as they are placed on her gravestone. But the movie does not end there. There is more.

It should be quite apparent by the middle of the movie, if not earlier, that the "mystery" is not the point. What we see is sketches of Don's re-encounter with these women with whom he once shared intimacy, and it is a fascinating mental exercise to reconstruct those relationships based on what we see.

This movie is entirely Murray's show, and I can't think of anyone who can make people laugh so much by doing so little. This actor is phenomenal. Don't miss the movie.
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10/10
Mystery in Pink
nycritic14 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
It's almost as if Ivan, the Lothario from Almodovar's WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN had stepped into a parallel world where of all of the women who he had been involved with (and in some way, left them with a broken heart), one of them (Pepa, the one who got pregnant in Almodovar's film) had decided to tell him she was the mother of his 19-year old son via a letter that arrives in the mail one day out of the clear blue.

That Don Johnston (Bill Murray) is seen sitting on his sofa watching "Don Juan" on TV in complete apathy as his current girlfriend Sherry (Julie Delpy) is packing her items and leaving is a clue of who this man is. That he couldn't be more passive indicates something is inherently wrong with this man. No wonder he spends most of the time alone in this movie, unable to connect.

But the arrival of the letter -- written on a typewriter in pink stationery and enclosed in an equally pink envelope acts as a catalyst to push this man out of his shell and into the world of the living. A friend and neighbor, Winston (Jeffrey Wright), tracks down five females with whom he could have been involved with at the time, this fathering this unknown son. Off Don goes to see which of them is the mother, less out of an actual interest as much as a way of knowing what has become to these women.

They couldn't be more disparate in nature: Laura (Sharon Stone), the first, is carefree and bears the mark of a fading beauty, a woman who was once stunning and still is, in a bleached way. Her daughter, appropriately named Lolita (Alexis Dziena), shamelessly flirts with Don while talking on her cell phone and again the question arises: what does this ineffectual man have that seems to attract women? The second is Dora (Frances Conroy). Married into success, she is the shadow of a woman who was once something of a hippie, but has since become a successful real-estate agent living in complacency -- the perfect North-American housewife. Except that she has no children, and seems to harbor some feelings for Don as conveyed in her sad eyes, and wistful body language.

Carmen comes next. Played by Jessica Lange, she is a woman who might have been involved with Don at one point, but now seems to have traded his gender for the female (Chloe Sevigny, acting as her assistant in the business Lange runs). There is little in common with Carmen and Don, but he has less in common with Penny (Tilda Swinton), a woman who lives in trailer-park hell and whom he has swift but ferocious altercation with... or the other way around. She was the one who abandoned Don, and would rather never see him again, and the mention of a son blows things out of proportion as two men beat him unconscious, not before he gets a glimpse of a pink typewriter cast dejected on the ground some feet away. Could she be the one? The fifth, Michelle, is dead. Murray has a silent scene, sitting forlorn in front of this woman's tomb, looking as if he is about to cry. He never does, which makes this quiet scene even more emotional.

Bill Murray has here what could be the role that has him out-do the sad man he played in LOST IN TRANSLATION. His impassivity is something not many actors could do, with those semi-dead eyes and that limpness that suggests a man slowly melting into silent desperation -- a man who cannot relate with people even as he tries. Even his conversations with his neighbor seem drained of real life... he seems to be on autopilot, at first going through the motions, later developing a real interest in solving this mystery and patching things up, if such a thing is indeed possible.

The women, however, all have brief roles, and all create plausible roles that leave an impression long after they've been gone from the screen altogether, which brings a feeling of something vital that Don has lost -- maybe irrevocably so. With the exception of Tilda Swinton's majestic fury, all of them have a sadness just brimming below the surface, expressed differently, in their own acting styles.

Jim Jarmusch has made a film that is as European as can be -- a film that offers no clear solutions of what this letter may mean, or if Don has reached some form of understanding of himself. For an American director to be able to make this kind of movie that would only appeal to a select public and be successful is an event in its own. His movie, like Antonioni's BLOW UP, is less about a mystery than about the emptiness within a man who has left a lot of unsolved issues behind.
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