Urban Cinefile
William Kellys War
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday, October 21, 2014 - Edition No 920 

Search SEARCH FOR A DVD
Our Review Policy OUR REVIEW POLICY
Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE

Newsletter Options - Registration is FREE Help/Contact

DEAD MAN: DVD

SYNOPSIS:
Dead Man is the story of a young man’s journey, both physically and spiritually, into very unfamiliar terrain. William Blake (Johnny Depp) travels to the extreme western frontiers of America sometime in the second half of the 19th century. Lost and badly wounded, he encounters a very odd, outcast Native American named Nobody Gary Farmer), who believes Blake is actually the dead English poet of the same name. With Nobody’s help William Blake is led through situations that are in turn comical and violent.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Dead Man is one of my favourite films, with its indelible mood of poetic mysticism mixing with comedy, illusion, innocence, violence and death, all told with great cinematic flair. The opening sequence, for example, (which almost got the film banned in Australia for one brief shot), is a brilliant, compelling piece of cinema that speaks volumes without the spoken word. It is enormously enhanced by Neil Young’s haunting guitar score whose central motif somehow evokes the images from the film long after The End. Jarmusch is not a mainstream filmmaker (the loss is the mainstream’s) and his Australian fans will be already lining up for a copy of this DVD. If you haven’t already seen the film, here are Jarmusch’s own notes on it:

“Dead Man is the story of a young man’s journey, both physically and spiritually, into very unfamiliar terrain. William Blake tarvels to the extreme western frontiers of America sometime in the second half of the 19th century. Lost and badly wounded, he encounters a very odd, outcast Native American named Nobody, who believes Blake is actually the dead English poet of the same name. With Nobody’s help William Blake is led through situations that are in turn comical and violent.

“Contrary to his nature, circumstances turn Blake into a hunted outlaw, a killer, and a man whose physical existence is slowly slipping away. Thrown into a world that is cruel and chaotic, his eyes are opened to the fragility that defines the realm of the living. It is as though he passes through the surface of a mirror and emerges into a previously unknown world that exists on the other side.”

Jarmusch chose to shoot in black and white for a couple of reasons - and I might as well tell you what they are, since there is no director’s commentary on the disc. The primary reason is to do with Bill Blake’s journey taking him further and further from anything familiar. “Colour, particularly in landscapes, connects us with things due to our familiarity with their tonal values and this would have undermined a basic element of the story.

“Also, because it is set in the 19th century and the absence of too much information (that provided by colour) is a way of gaining some historical distance.”

Another reason Jarmusch gives – bearing in mind that the film is a western of sorts - is to recall the atmosphere of American films from the 40s and 50s, “or even historical films of Kurosawa or Mizoguchi,” rather than the more familiar palette of more recent westerns. And last but not least, he wanted to work in black and white again with cinematographer Robby Müller.

The music video, with teasing glimpses of Neil Young recording the soundtrack, is welcome as one of the few extras on the disc.

Published July 19, 2001
Updated July 28, 2005



Email this article

CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed:

DEAD MAN (R)
(US)

CAST: Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Lance Henrikson, Michael Wincot, Gabriel Byrne, John Hurt, Alfred Molina, Crispin Glover, Iggy Pop, Billy Bob Thornton and a special appearance by Robert Mitchum

PRODUCER: Demetra J. MacBride

DIRECTOR: Jim Jarmusch

SCRIPT: Jim Jarmusch

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robby Müller

EDITOR: Jay Rabinowitz

MUSIC: Neil Young

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Robert Ziembicki

RUNNING TIME: 122 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: deleted scenes and outtakes, trailer, music video, biographies

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Siren (2001); Madman (2005)

DVD RELEASE: June 13, 2001; July 20, 2005







SciFi Film Festival
© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2014