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  • Dead Man is a unique piece of film. As this is my first taste of Jim Jarmusch, I had no idea of what to expect, but even if I had; I reckon that this film wouldn't have conformed to them. Dead Man is a surreal and trippy western that peels itself away from the staples of the genre and succeeds in creating something truly one-off and self-styled. Lead by a score written by Neil Young, Dead Man is continually satisfying and powerful; and you get the impression that every scene has been fully thought through, and is perfectly realised as the auteur intended. For this reason, Dead Man captivates it's viewer from the moment it starts until the moment it ends, and as it descends into full blown trippy weirdness, you can do nothing but stare in admiration of this strange gem of cult cinema. The plot is thin on the ground and it largely lacks meaning, but it doesn't matter because Dead Man is a purely aesthetic experience. Still, it follows William Blake (Johnny Depp), an accountant from Cleveland that arrives in a town to take a job offer, only to find that the vacancy has already been filled…

    Dead Man is filmed in very stark black and white, which only adds to the surrealism of the story. Had this film have been done in colour, it would not have captured the same atmosphere that the black and white gives it; and so this decision was an inspired one indeed. One staple of the western genre that Jarmusch is keen to retain is the use of close-ups. The director spends a lot of time caressing Depp's facial features with his camera and, at times, even focuses on his lead actor when the action doesn't concern him. Aside from keeping in with the western tradition, this also allows Jarmusch to keep the focus on the main character, which keeps the viewer focused on his plight. For this film, Jarmusch has put together a cast of B-movie icons that will have B-movie fans foaming at the mouth. Crispin Glover, Robert Mitchum, Billy Bob Thornton, Lance Henriksen, Gabriel Byrne, John Hurt, Alfred Molina and even Iggy Pop feature and it's great to see so many faces in the same movie. The cast is, of course, lead by a man who is perhaps today's best actor; Johnny Depp. Depp's name on a credit list speaks for itself, and I don't need to tell you that his performance is great; nor do I need to point out the effortless cool that this movie exudes, largely thanks to the great man's presence. My only advice is see it...see it now.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Only the best films create mood, and this is one of the best of those. There are some superb moments, stunning music, and of course, loads of mystical meaning.

    Here is a quick key: The train journey is a metaphor for the passage of Blake's life as well as the passage of man into the dubious morality of the machine age.

    The coal-stoker on the train seems aware of Blake's destiny and shows that this is not just any train.

    We might take Blake as an incarnation of the real poet William Blake. The coal-stoker's obscure reference to the ship might indicate a passage across the sea he assumed Blake made (from England).

    The shooting of the buffalo from the train (huh?) shows man's senseless destruction of nature.

    The hellish machinery of the train is shown taking Blake towards Machine, the crossroads of man's conscience and a place already turned into a kind of hell.

    The girl's paper flowers show how even pretty things have degenerated into a soulless artificial state, but is also a sign of hope. She hopes to have real flowers one day - a sign that she has a good soul.

    After Blake collapses in the street there is a rather large shooting star, presumably to indicate that his soul had left him (Jarmusch is being coy if denies this blatant indication that Blake has "passed on"). In fact, the best interpretation is that he is not quite dead, but dying, comatose: that enables the film to work equally well on two levels.

    Here's the key thing: the real poet William Blake had visions and wrote a book called "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell" (geddit?). This book is written in a weird style that sounds quite like Indian-speak. In fact, several of Nobody's lines are taken straight from the this book such as "The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow". Ironically, in the film, Blake does not understand any of what Nobody is saying and calls it "Indian malarkey".

    We can take Nobody for a bit foolish in a real-world sense, but in the spiritual world we must assume he knows what he is talking about. When he asks Blake "did you kill the man who killed you?" and Blake answers "I'm not dead", we can assume that Nobody's knows something Blake doesn't.

    In a scene cut from the final film, Nobody says that he saw a bluebird drinking the blood from Blake's wound. This obviously showed Nobody that Blake's soul was worth saving - otherwise it would have been a vulture, not a bluebird, on his chest.

    Nobody = "no body". A further indication that he is of the spiritual world.

    Nobody and Cole (black as coal) are good and evil angels fighting it out for Blake's soul. They are each more or less indestructible, except that like good and evil themselves they can cancel each other out, as they do at the end.

    Everyone met along the way shows various types of human fallibility or degeneracy and each comes to a bad end, weeded out in the purgatorial process.

    The dead deer represents the woman he met in Machine, and bears the same wound. The embracing of the deer is Christian-type imagery, providing some indication of the good, redeeming side of Blake's character.

    During his "trials" (Nobody gives him the odd test) Blake shows both good and bad aspects to his character, and so at the end we can assume he drifts off into neither heaven nor hell, but in limbo.

    There's surely more. For example, the sheriff's head (that Cole crushes under his boot) is an exact replica of Lenin - implying that communism is more evil than Evil. And I was interested to see one reviewer mention that the name of the bar in Machine has some relation to the death of Stalin's wife.

    No doubt the film is worth more than one viewing. However you look at it, it's a terrific creation.
  • Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man is a truly one of a kind film, a film that I have been entranced for over a decade by, and constantly revisit it's haunting beauty, poetic absurdities and stark, gorgeous black and white cinematography (holla to Robby Muller). Johnny Depp basically plays a meek, downtrodden east coast boy mired in a wild, violent and confusing journey through a western outpost town and after a love triangle ends in murder, possibly his own, he embarks on a strange, spiritual walk through a Pacific Northwest netherworld of pine trees, outlaw bounty hunters, and oddball characters, led by a Native named Nobody (the excellent Gary Farmer). Is he dead? Was he even there to begin with? Jarmusch abandons logic for an expressionist approach, and the film ends up as a hypnotic tone poem and visual palette of events that don't really make sense, and may frustrate some. But to those open to its idiosyncratic writing and determined, enigmatic style, oh what a film it is. The cast is absolutely to die for. Depp is incredible in the best performance of his extremely uneven career. The character arc he inhabits here is wonderful, taking a feeble, checkered suited mess of a man and morphing him into a ghostly, predatorial, terrifying wilderness archetypal bandit, a force of nature among the trees and mountains. Haunted eyes, quick draw kill streak, moody contemplation, it really is his finest work. Michael Wincott steals his scenes as a chatty assassin and Lance Henriksen is scary as hell, playing a hired killer who "fucked his parents, then cooked them up and ate them." (Don't ask, just go with the film's demented flow). Gabriel Byrne, Iggy Pop, Billy Bob Thornton, Robert Mitchum, Milli Avital, John Hurt and an especially weird Crispin Glover all nail their cameos, and Neil Young's beautiful, melodic, elemental score is the beating heart of the film. Dead Man isn't a traditional film in any sense, and in fact seems to take place in a cliché free, bizarro alternate western dream universe where the rules don't apply, but all the beauty, mysticism and rugged frontier intrigue of the genre still remain. Fine with me. One of my all time favourites.
  • The Western genre has always been misunderstood as a simplistic, racist (and misogynistic) traditional genre due to the many mediocre Westerns of the 40s and 50s. However, real good Westerns have delighted us with complex stories that take advantage of the setting themes: the conflict between honor & law, wilderness & civilization, and life & death. Director Jim Jarmusch, who has achieved fame and recognition in the independent film community, uses the elements of the Western genre to create his very own poetical meditation on these themes, giving the genre his personal touch crafting a powerful and original gem.

    Young accountant William Blake (Johnny Depp) seems to have lost everything as his parents have died and his fianceé left him without a reason; so he decides to take a job in Machine, a town located at the end of "civilization" in the Wild Wild West. To his misfortune, the job he applied to has already been taken and now he finds himself really without nothing. However, his life will change forever after by a series of circumstances he ends up murdering a man, becoming an outlaw, although getting badly wounded in the process. Now, traveling along an outcast native who calls himself "Nobody" (Gary Farmer), he'll begin a strange and surreal trip that'll prepare him for the next stage.

    Written by Jarmusch himself, the film's story details Blake's trip guided by Nobody in a similar way to Dante's journey in "The Divine Comedy", where a series of "episodes" are used to explore different ideas and themes across the trip. Jarmusch subtlety mixes drama and comedy to deliver his philosophical meditation making the film an entertaining experience, never becoming boring or tiresome. The Western setting is used effectively to tell this story and "Dead Man" toys with the Western elements in a subtle, respectful and quite entertaining way that neither parodies it nor makes fun of it in any way.

    Shot entirely in black and white, the cinematography (by Jarmusch regular, Robby Müller) captures that feeling of loneliness and emptiness that William Blake's life has, as well as his collision with the wilderness of the wild west. Jarmusch camera-work together with Neil Young's excellent soundtrack give the film a beautiful surreal look that echoes Blake's equally surreal journey across the darkness searching for light. Finally, another interesting point is Jarmusch extensive care for detail in his portrayal of the American west, as well as his respect for the Native American cultures that play an important role in his film; making "Dead Man" one of the most realist Westerns ever made.

    Johnny Depp's performance is remarkable, and probably one of the best in his career. Blake's complete transformation across the film is a real challenge and Depp makes the most of it. Gary Farmer is equally excellent and he is as effective in the comedy scenes as he is in the drama scenes, showing his flexibility and talent. The supporting roles present an assortment of cameos where actors such as Crispin Glover, Lance Henriksen, John Hurt and Robert Mitchum (in his last role) appear giving outstanding performances despite the limited screen time they receive. Henriksen certainly delivers his best performance in years.

    Jarmusch's film is a brilliant poetical meditation of life and death, but its episodic nature make it feel even more slow than it is, as every vignette is separated by fade outs that break the mood created. This really damages the film's atmosphere, as it feels as a forced wake up after a pleasant dream. Another problem, is that fans expecting an action-filled Western may end up disappointed, so bear in mind that this film is more about feelings rather than actions. Despite his minor problems, the film is still a very enjoyable experience and a whole new way to experience Westerns, so even non-fans of the genre will appreciate it.

    To summarize, "Dead Man" is an atypical look at Westerns that presents Jarmusch's interesting views on life and death in an entertaining, attractive way. Among the revisionist westerns, "Dead Man" is a valuable gem that is worth a watch. Even non-fans of the genre will find something interesting in it. 9/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    There is so much symbolism and allegory in the picture that it's impossible to comment on it all. Reviewer 'Soul Western' does an excellent job detailing a handful and I recommend reading it.

    I was struck by Nobody's (Gary Farmer) story of his childhood and capture by white men who paraded him like a zoo animal in a cage. Unwittingly, Nobody marvels at the idea that people from one city would all simultaneously move to the next city before he arrived there so they could see him again. This observation perhaps is meant to convey an apparent condemnation of group-think or herd mentality that settles on a population that has been numbed into acquiescence by popular culture or technology. A movie like "Dead Man" then, invites the viewer to consider ideas outside the parameters of what one might consider normal.

    The accompaniment of Neil Young's guitar provides a disjointed, fractured framework that's disorienting as much as it is guttural, portending a finality that the picture's journey takes us on. At virtually any point along the way, one might consider that William Blake (Johnny Depp) is already dead to a world that rejected him as soon as he stepped into the town of Machine. Nobody instinctively knows this, reinforced when he observes Blake's face as a skeleton, a symbol used extensively in the story with multiple animal skulls on display in Machine, and again in the walled Indian village just prior to Blake's journey into the beyond.

    My summary line is taken from a sign in the remote trading post where Blake was accosted by the shopkeeper - "God damn your soul to the fires of hell" he says, recognizing Blake's face from a Wanted Poster. Knowing that there's no turning back now, Blake replies "He already has". The rest of Blake's journey will symbolically take him back to the place from which he came.
  • Siradakis11 December 2002
    What a movie!... didn't want to see it at first.. But, then, when it begins, you take the trip with Blake to the big sea.

    So beatiful pictures, such poetry in every single one of them. Hypnotic black and white scenes, still and vast nature, music that takes you down the other side.

    It's the unconsious trip of one man to death, slowly descending to another level, deeper into nature. Or is he already dead and is not aware of it? Rivers, trees, animals and spirits to guide him along the way. This is a trip to self-knowledge, a hallucinational, sweet and slow resignation from needs and senses.

    Amazing directing, incredible photography and an also amazing Johnny Depp, sunk in his own visions and thoughts, excellent in his portrayal of a man's abdication to parrallel levels of consiousness.

    Thank god there is the indie american film making, that we see such beatiful movies.
  • Bored_Dragon1 November 2016
    Fantastic choice of actors, led by Johnny Depp, perfectly portraying a man who slowly crosses to the other side and blends with the nature on his last journey, and Gary Farmer, who brings some colour into this black and white masterpiece. Jarmusch overcame himself in this movie. Beautiful black and white cadres followed by Neil Young's hypnotizing guitar make us slip into a trance and drag us in another world, where we peacefully flow towards the end. The story is deep and sad, violent and romantic, at the same time full of death and full of life. The best performances of both Jarmusch and Young mixed together in one of the best movies of all time. It simply has no flaws at all.

  • Johnny Depp is one of the most talented & influential actors of the Modern-Era. His body of work proves that fact right! Having played some of the most twisted characters, Depp reinvents himself with his outstanding performance as a meek accountant in 'Dead Man'. WOW!

    'Dead Man' Synopsis: On the run after murdering a man, accountant William Blake encounters a strange North American man named Nobody who prepares him for his journey into the spiritual world.

    'Dead Man', as a film, has the power to engross its viewer. Its an interesting film, that is executed sharply by Cult-Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch. Jarmusch executes the film with style & a sense of wonderment, which works big time. The Narrative is crisp & even humorous at times. Jarmusch's Screenplay & Direction, both, are very well-done. Cinematography is fabulous. Editing is decent. Art Design is proper.

    Performance-Wise: Its a Johnny Depp Show All The Way! He's simply outstanding as the protagonist. This has to be Depp's finest performance from the mid 1990's. Gary Farmer is efficient. Crispin Glover & John Hurt are okay. Gabriel Byrne is ever-impressive.

    On the whole, 'Dead Man' is certainly a film worth watching.
  • First of all, you have to be a Jarmusch fan. If you walk comfortably through that door, you'll find he does a bang-up job with this existential Western. So does Johnny Depp, who plays the lead--a lost unemployed accountant in the old west who happens to be named William Blake. Gary Farmer, the Indian from Ghost Dog and The Score, calls himself Nobody because he doesn't like his given name that means "one who talks much and says nothing." Nobody serves as William Blake's savior, doctor, guide and boatman "across the river." Neil Young wrote and performed the score. Blake's nemesis is played by Lance Henriksen as a terse cannibalistic bounty hunter. Delightful cameos include Robert Mitchum, Crispin Glover, Gabriel Byrne, John Heard and others.

    Symbolism abounds--there are shooting stars, down-shots of a hellish factory where Blake wanders looking for a way out, mines and factories of "white-man's metal," plenty of dead animals, including a small doe that Depp lies down with after decorating his face with its blood.

    But the movie doesn't fall into the trap of making white men the fall guys for everything wrong with the world in which Blake and Nobody try to make a living. Nobody mistreats Blake's bullet wound and is arguably responsible for his ultimate predicament. Nobody isn't worldly, despite having seen Europe in his youth. He believes the same white people were in every town he visited. The northwest tribe visited at the end were petty people who obviously thought Blake and Nobody were not worth their attention, evidenced by Nobody's imprecations to "walk proud" to the mortally-wounded Blake, and his nervousness at what might happen if he didn't. And of course, there is Nobody's innocent belief that the hapless accountant is the historical poet and artist.

    Held together with Young's musical score--mixed a tad loud for my taste--and the deterioration of the finances and health of William Blake, Dead Man is more than a picaresque, but the overall theme is elusive. Motifs are another story, and are liberally sprinkled throughout. Perhaps that's the point, ultimately--in the face of death, nothing else matters, and all the symbols and themes add up to nothing, driving the story from existential to nihilistic. Personal friendship, religion, wealth, work, technology, tribe, humanity, God, love--all mean nothing or are actively detrimental. For a movie named "Dead Man," that's not an unreasonable interpretation.

    Depp is an ideal actor to portray the reluctant gunslinger, and his personality does more to hold the film together than any other single factor. The camera loves him, and his ability to portray a variety of responses to his predicaments, from confusion, surprise and anger to amusement, disappointment and ultimately resignation is the heart of this thoroughly enjoyable film.
  • sukara18 September 2000
    Jim Jarmusch is one of my favorite directors, and Dead Man is probably the greatest work he has ever done. Very rarely does a film come alive with a sense of poetry. The only other film I can compare it to would be Wim Wenders' Wings Of Desire. The film moves like a dream, floating and spinning around you. Neil Young's electric score churns like a ghost train and pushes the film farther. There isn't one performance that is wrong, nor is there ever a false moment. From start to finish this film pulls you into it's dream land, and carries you along on clouds until the finish.
  • This is Jim Jarmusch at his best. I re-watched this movie a week ago and I'm still amazed by how Jarmusch gets under my skin and makes me think. Jarmusch plays with one of his favorite themes here: death. But of course, he's not limiting himself to that. He's questioning the western as a genre, he puts music in this movie in a way that makes it necessary for the viewer. Without Neil Young's guitar, this movie just isn't the same.

    Johnny Depp plays William Blake an accountant from Cleveland lost in the west after some strange quiproquo. Blake is shot and dying throughout the movie. Helped with an Indian named nobody, he finds himself on his way to the other world. Lots of resilience shown by Blake, getting stronger and stronger as the difficult times are approaching. As much as the accountant never seemed to have evolved, he's taking bigger and bigger leaps as death is overshadowing him. Touching tale of friendship, resilience, death and guns! This movie is an all time great
  • Originally from Cleveland, William Blake gets a job as an accountant in a place called "Machine Town". Already in the train that takes him to the Dickinson wood factory an "unknown guy" warn him against the place he is going to. It is not fortune that awaits him but Death. Indeed the first night in "Machine Town", Blake is shot at and wounded. From this point on start a long journey of wandering in company of Nobody, an Indian and a philosopher.

    This black and white film is mesmerizing. Obviously the black and white marks a rupture between what you are used to…So in essence this rupture is between let say classic Western and Jim Jarmush western as he re-visit the genre. It is also a way to keep the audience to what is essential…Color is a filter that can distract you, the sobriety of black and white will not.

    But what exactly is essential in that movie? Beside the fact that Mr. Jarmush depict a brutal and impulsive America, the movie opposes a new born civilization that is already collapsing and a dying one that is still shining…But more than that the journey of William Blake is a metaphoric and circular voyage from misunderstanding to certitude. The guide Nobody, himself trapped between the two civilizations can not provide a cure to the passing man but may very well provide a path to a curing one. This journey from Machine Town, the "anti chamber" of hell to the sea, first step to Heaven is tremendously poetic and emotional. Also emotional is the evolution from misunderstanding to comprehension between Nobody and William Blake who eventually settles on what is essential reaching a common ground, clarity…

    Help by a haunting and beautiful score from Neil Young and an extraordinary cast the film succeed in transforming the wood wagon of hell in which William Blake embarks to the wooden vessel to heaven in which he will lie.

    One of the best films from Mr. Jarmush, Dead Man manages to take the audience in one of cinema most poetic journey
  • Heading towards a metalworks factory at the edge of the known universe, a pristine, young accountant named William Blake steps into the ungodly, mechanical hell that is the town of Machine. And so begins this man's descent into the wrong place, at a point where time itself is nonexistent.

    Blake arrives in Machine after a demented, tireless train ride through what may be his own self. Spanning the beauty of epic horizons and dense forests, yet ending in the bleak misery of the barren desert, we meet this out-of-place traveler in a tiring, strange situation. His frailty is evident: alone, without a living heir, struggling to make his way amidst the freaks and grim destination that awaits. As expected, the town itself begs no welcome, as the malevolent rumors prove true, and leave Blake face to face with the dusty spines of inexorable destiny. In more ways than one, the Wild West awaits...

    From this point on, Blake embarks on his surrealistic journey into nothingness, as he becomes a marked man running from nearly everyone and everything. Trusting in a Native friend (appropriately named `Nobody'), the descent into Blake's rejection is juxtaposed with the realities of a truly inescapable destiny. As such, the notions of ill fate and bad luck are separately defined alongside each other. Soon enough, however, Blake learns to cope with the road to ruin, and from his relationship with Nobody, he begins to transform into the gunslinging poet he never was.

    In these aspects - the premise, the cinematic device, and the endless attention to narrative and metaphoric detail - the film is simply brilliant. Watching Johnny Depp's character transformation amidst Jim Jarmusch's artistic direction of both beauty and brutality is simply exceptional, despite any problems the film may contain. A feeling of purgatorial confinement is truly achieved as humor is mixed with suspense, and uneasiness blends with inevitability. This is definitely one of the few movies that strangely seizes the disposition, toying with it until sufficiently queasy.

    Nevertheless, while the story, acting, and cinematic composition of the film are excellent, certain directorial choices do prevent it from achieving perfection. The primary problem concerns the dreamlike quality interspersed through several drawn-out fades: while effective, they are overused, and only serve to impair the flow of the film and it's intended message. Another problem is the tempo of the action: the characters, while quick to quip and raise their weapons, engage in gunfights at the speed of snails. When a shot is fired, the attacker simply stands in place, only to be killed by the target he missed. This particular criticism can lend itself to the film as a whole, as well. In other words, had the entire pace of the film been quickened, perhaps Jarmusch's voyage into the depths of doom and despair may have been more effective. Lastly, as in many independent films, superfluous `art film' shots and indie flavor over-season the picture simply to separate it from big-studio Hollywood...though as the film progresses, these moments become less apparent.

    Overall, this film is one to be seen by anyone who enjoys a creative story with TONS of review value. Several notable faces make their way through the screen (Gabriel Bryne, Robert Mitchum, Crispin Glover, Iggy Pop, and more), and the dirty, electric twang of Neil Young's guitar fills the gaps with a dark, mechanical, Southwestern gloom.

    Enter the town of Machine, and you'll be processed as well. Just watch out for snags along the trail - they make the journey a bit annoying, and certainly longer than what is warranted by the reaches of the attention span...or simply the principles of artistic efficiency.
  • Jim Jarmusch is one of the undisputed leading figures of American independent cinema.His films are a proof of the "never say die spirit" of American independent cinema which has been instrumental in putting some of the most oddball stories about eccentric human beings which classical American cinema Hollywood would largely adore to ignore.The best thing that can be said about Jim Jarmusch and his film "Dead Man" is that it scores fairly good points in all the aspects of successful film making.In this film,the very idea of an American film star Johnny Depp traveling in a steam locomotive to far west is amazing as it allows us to believe that leading players in Hollywood are always willing to contribute to innovative ideas.No good film can achieve success without good music.A perfect tandem between moving images and sound is achieved by Paul Young's haunting guitar riffs.They intensify the brilliance of dramatic scenes as each sound from his guitar incites viewers to pay utmost attention to the film's development of dramatic sequences.The fact that actors make or break a film's fortune is in full evidence as "Dead Man" is full of talented icons of American culture such as Robert Mitchum,Gabriel Byrne and Iggy Pop. There are happy moments of glamor,sensuality and sexuality too in the form of screen presence of sultry Mili Avital who radiates immensely despite her minor role.Wicked people always meet an unhappy end is proved to all and sundry as all the bad men die in a manner which is neither glorious nor heroic.Deriding white men and his civilization is one of Jim Jarmusch's favorite pastimes.This activity is seen in full force as an Indian man repeatedly mocks William Blake who is none other than Hollywood superstar Johnny Depp.Dead Man is also a superb tale of human bravery as an innocent accountant learns to save his life when he gets hold of a gun after being falsely accused of killing an influential young man and his girl friend.Dead Man is a film which must be seen to experience its richness of ideas because a film full of rich ideas must be seen as no amount of worldly praise can make a viewer come near its greatness.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    That haunting score. The bravado performances of Johnny Depp, Crispin Glover, Robert Mitchum, and of course, Gary Farmer, who is the absolute star of the film. So many great lines!

    Every night and every morn Some to misery are born. Every morn and every night Some are born to sweet delight. Some are born to sweet delight, Some are born to endless night. We are led to believe a lie When we see not through the eye Which was born in a night to perish in a night, When the soul slept in beams of light. God appears, and God is light To those poor souls who dwell in night, But does a human form display To those who dwell in realms of day.

    Gary Farmer's character, Nobody, understands that poem, but he doesn't understand why Depp's character, William Blake, doesn't know about his own poetry. He does know that the dead poet has come to be his spirit guide, and tells him, "You were a poet and a painter, William Blake. But now, you're a killer of white men."

    GOD this film is f*cking brilliant! I have never seen anything like it! My wife, who loves epic westerns, and native culture, couldn't watch it at all, finding it "weird and pointless."

    Why then, have I sat captivated through it so many times, as if in a dream, buoyed along by the surreal imagery, perfect cinematography, flawless acting, and inspired soundtrack?

    This film goes so far beyond what film is supposed to do, in so many ways. It speaks to us of things many of us dare not learn, and so many of us dismiss it as pretentious pseudo-art. Trust me, this is REAL art, and it's FUNNY! This is the greatest deconstruction of a genre ever attempted, and it works on every level. God bless Jim Jarmusch for this visionary and profound work, and God bless actors like Depp and Farmer, for their bravery in executing it.

    Lance Henrikson? Michael Wincott? John Hurt? IGGY POP????

    Where do you find a cast like that? And don't forget Neil Young's soundtrack, which Roger Ebert described as sounding "like Young kept dropping his guitar," or something like that. That was truly the perfect soundtrack for this film.

    Ah, the taste of REAL art!
  • I decided to check this movie out as I am now studying William Blake poems in my English class. This movie is flat out brilliant. To see Jarmusch make something as pretentious as Broken Flowers is kind of shocking. The amount of symbolism and metaphor in this movie is awesome. A real tribute to the actual William Blake. If ever Blake took a quest, this was it. I knew this movie was going to be good as soon as I saw the vast list of slightly eccentric actors lined up in it. This script must have touched something deeply spiritual in all of them and I, if I were them, would have felt as if I wasn't even in the film. So many times was I moved to tears. It is its own entity. Amazing movie. I'm definitely adding it to my collection.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    William Blake is an accountant who travels deep into the west of America to the frontier town of Machine to take up a job with a metal company. He travels on the train for many days but when he arrives he is told that his job has been given to another man. Not sure what to do with himself he gets involved with a girl when her boyfriend, Charles, returns home to find her. He kills her and Blake is forced to kill him in return. He flees the town but collapses only to wake with the Indian Nobody nursing him and telling him he is dead. With a bounty on his head, Nobody leads Blake to the water where he will cross to the next world.

    I first saw this film when it came out in a (now sadly closed) art cinema in Birmingham. I have only seen it twice since then but it has always stayed with me and made such an impact on me. The plot is little more than a journey, a journey that is never really explained or put into any context. However it is the sheer imagination and atmosphere of the film that prevents this being a problem. The precredit sequence of the film will tell you everything you need to know - if you are intrigued by the scene, taken by the atmosphere and gripped by the intense train driver, then you will love the rest of the film. The scenes continue with the dark foreboding atmosphere and the strange but gripping cast of characters. It is here where the film happens and it is all the better for it.

    The support cast of cameos are all great and their characters include a silent hitman, a chatty hitman, a travelling group of homosexual rapists, a prophetic train driver and a gun crazy businessman. If this gives the impression of a `wacky' film, then trust me it is not - it is not funny, it is spellbinding. The characters come and go but they are so imaginatively drawn that they all remain memorable. Jarmusch's direction helps this as he gives everything an unique visual touch. The photography is beautiful and framed really well in black and white - visually the film stayed with me since I first saw it, it was so distinctive. Of course it may not have managed that without the haunting and menacing score from Neil Young. It works so very well and is part of the reason the film stays with me.

    Now that he is `Oscar Nominee Johnny Depp' and not just `Johnny Depp' it is interesting to look back on this film and pleasing to see that his ability to find out worthy pieces has not diminished with the odd bigger film here and there. He is the wide eyed innocence here and is very much just the vessel we use to sail through other characters. As an actor, he impresses with his willingness to play a low key role while the support cast shine in colourful characters. Farmer is good in his Nobody role while the best roles go to the main bounty hunters - violent and sullen Henriksen and the funny chatty Wincott. Glover shows what a real intense performance is and is creepier here than all his efforts in the Charlie's Angels `films'. The support cast features memorable turns from Hurt, Mitchum, Molina, Iggy Pop and Billy Bob Thornton. They, along with the visuals and music, are what makes this film so very memorable.

    Overall, this is not for everyone and I'm sure it will frustrate many with it's seeming lack of plot and lack of traditional narrative. However it is hard not to be taken in by the gorgeous black and white images presented here with the haunting score and a journey that takes in one colourful character after another. It may not have much substance if you're after plot but it will stick in your mind.
  • Tame and gentile accountant Billy Blake arrives in a town called Machine, during an act of self defence Billy finds himself on the run as an outlaw. Pursued by a trio of gunslingers and facing up to the reality that his name is now famous, Billy is befriended by a spiritual Indian by the name of Nobody, their journey is sure to be a most enlightening one.

    If you read any plot summary or synopsis you would be forgiven for thinking that Dead Man is a conventional man on the run Western, but if you note from the outset that it's directed by art favourite Jim Jarmusch, then that should immediately steer you away from any thoughts of the normal. Jarmusch clearly has a fascination with death, it's not so much the clue is in the title type thing, it's evident in this story of one mans soul on it's spiritual journey. Blake is aboard a train at the film's commencement, it's crucial to pay attention to proceedings from the very first frame, come the picture's finale you will be rewarded for not only paying attention, but for being on this hypnotically engrossing journey all the way as well.

    The technical aspects score very high indeed, Jarmusch clearly has a knack for simmering absorbing stories that are dotted with off kilter stabs of humour. Neil Young scores the piece with jolts of electric twangs that feel like ghosts pervading your most peaceful dreams. Yet above all else on the technical front it's Robby Müller's photography that takes the honours, working in black and white he produces a rich and memorable layer of work, absorb the sequences as Billy arrives in Machine, gorgeous. The cast, led by a typically wonderful off beat performance from Johnny Depp, are super, star names come and go as truly great character actors carry the story thru to it's elegiac conclusion. I must also mention the brilliant sound department, for those with home surround cinema the sound work here really comes to the fore, be it an insect in the background or gun shots resounding in your ears, it's a job well done from that department.

    This was my first viewing of the picture and I'm highly delighted with how it panned out. I feel sure that further viewings will bring other pleasing rewards, It's the sort of film that I perhaps need a bottle of Jack Daniels with, for myself to go into Jarmusch's world. But for now, with all its allegories to death and souls; and fusions with the poet William Blake, I'll be content with hypnotically cool splendour. 8/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    As a genre, the Western has always had great potential; potential, unfortunately, that has rarely been fully realized. DEAD MAN happens to be one of the exceptions to the foregoing rule. While the film unfolds in a more or less "traditional" manner (the tenderfoot arrives in The West and quickly comes to realize that The West ain't The East), it's the permutations that matter most: what have become over the years accepted, "traditional" tropes, become, here, something probably more akin to what inspired them- sans the legends. These cross-dressing and cannibal cowboys ("Crazy white men," as Depp's traveling companion so often says) ring uncomfortably true. (As anyone familiar with the axploits of "Liver-eatin' Johnson" can attest...) (And the movie made based thereupon- JEREMIAH JOHNSON, with Robert Redford- is no doubt infinitely more palatable, especially for, uh, mass consumption, whitewashed than told true-to-life- as RAVENOUS would later make clear.) DEAD MAN pushes the boundaries, and it does so with a good dose of humor throughout. Recommended.
  • On the run after murdering a man, accountant William Blake (Johnny Depp) encounters a strange Indian named "Nobody" (Gary Farmer) who prepares him for his journey into the spiritual world.

    Okay, we have an amazing cast here: Lance Henriksen, Billy Bob Thorton, Crispin Glover, Iggy Pop, and Robert Mitchum's final role. That automatically counts for something. And we have the whole thing shot in glorious black and white, which is all too uncommon since the 1960s. That is another point.

    Now, on the other hand, commercially, the movie lost a boatload of money (making only about 10% of what it cost) and ranks as the most expensive of Jarmusch's films.

    And critically, it has mixed reviews. Roger Ebert was not a fan of the film, giving it less than two stars and saying, "Jim Jarmusch is trying to get at something here, and I don't have a clue what it is." He calls it "a strange, slow, unrewarding movie" and says the score "sounds like nothing so much as a man repeatedly dropping his guitar." Others, such as Jonathan Rosenbaum and A. O. Scott, have called it one of the best films of the 1990s.

    I happened to like it, though I did not fully appreciate the William Blake references (as well as Tom Petty references). But that is my loss, not Jarmusch's fault. And I am not sure I got the message, if there is one. And I still like "Broken Flowers" better... but there is still much to love here.
  • Exactly what kind of journey is "Dead Man?" Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch's longtime fascination with finding and living the American Dream amidst a landscape of lawlessness and randomness takes a most exotic turn in his 1995 film starring Johnny Depp. Whether the main character is already dead and traveling to eternal rest or on an inevitable trajectory to death is just one of the film's big questions.

    "Dead Man" gravitates between a spiritual plane and a firmly rooted, quite visceral Western landscape. Depp's William Blake anxiously awaits his arrival in Machine, at the farthest end of the Western frontier (sometime in the late 1800s), when he's confronted by the train's fireman (Crispin Glover), the line of questioning serves both an expository and foreshadowing poetic purpose, a clear first signal of the film's intention to straddle the line between reality and ethereality.

    With a foot firmly in each plane, "Dead Man" becomes quite an experience to grapple with as a viewer. We see clearly what's happening to Blake as he's denied the job he was promised, ends up killing a man and flees into the wilderness, where a Native American outcast named Nobody (Gary Farmer) becomes his guide. Yet his transformation is something else entirely. The poetry-quoting dialogue and score from Neil Young (yes, that Neil Young), featuring a pervasive distorted electric guitar motif, keep us on edge as a reminder never to quite settle into – or be fooled by – the Western genre trappings.

    Rarely does a film come across as both esoteric and gut-smackingly funny. Levity is an unexpected partner on Blake's journey, and at times in a blue collar sort of way. Just when Jarmusch suckers you into thinking seriously about the film, a line of dialogue or a particular character will pop out of nowhere, perfectly timed and with the perfectly complementary tone. Farmer, Michael Wincott as one of the bounty hunters after Blake, and the trio of Iggy Pop, Billy Bob Thorton and Jared Harris are among the comedy standouts. Jarmusch will simply not allow us to take anything too seriously, even though we do have to engage with his film intellectually at times to make the most of it. This contradiction ultimately serves Jarmusch's likely intent that his film can't be viewed in just any one, clearly interpreted way.

    Also countering the humorous tones are starkly violent ones. Some of the violent moments hit comedic notes whether intentionally or not, but many of them come across as brusque and disturbing. Fairness, or anything reminiscent of a moral arc, is far from Jarmusch's interest as a storyteller. Death in this film is an obvious byproduct of Blake's road to certain death or his soul's road through hell to peace, depending how you interpret things. In fact, each progressive death that Blake is involved in serves to transform him from stuffy accountant to outlaw. Discarded by the world, Blake's choice to keep stepping into the role falling into place before him is at the heart of the movie.

    Of all his early work, "Dead Man" is certainly Jarmusch's richest film. The Western genre was also a perfect match with the filmmaker's world view and themes of interest. His preference for vignettes and scenes of a shorter length bookended by fades to black makes a little less sense here because the trajectory of Blake's story is so sure-footed, but it serves as a nice way to organize and think about the film as it's happening.

    "Dead Man" might be a film that never fully makes sense, no matter how many times you watch it, but the right person in the right frame of mind can find moments that resonate and reach an interpretation that justifies its unusual dual nature.

    ~Steven C

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  • In the earlier 90s Jim Jarmusch had already established himself as a cult film director, who was slowly beginning to get noticed and acclaimed. His past films had received critical acclaim, and had gained cult-followings. Then in 1989 his film Mystery Train went to the Cannes Film Festival and was up for the Palme d'Or. So with this new-found attention Jarmusch made his most ambitious film yet. That film was Dead Man.

    Dead Man tells the story of William Blake, (played by arguably the best actor of the 90s Johnny Deep, and no, not the poet William Blake, though that will be relevant later.) a man from the earlier 19th century who has left his hometown of Cleveland after his parents died, and uses all of the money he has to travel to the frontier town, Machine, where he was promised a job. When he arrives in the town he learns from the heads of the company (played by John Hurt, and Robert Mitchum.) that his position has already been filled. Disappointed, and depressed Blake heads to the local saloon where he meets a former prostitute called Thel Russell. He then goes home with her and spends the night. The next morning he awakes only to find that her ex-fiancé (named Charlie), who disappeared a while ago, has suddenly arrived back home. Charlie then tries to shoot Blake but hits Thel when she moves in front of him at the last second. Blake then shoots Charlie and desperately runs out of the town, but eventually passes out. When he awakens a Native American (played by Gary Farmer.) is desperately trying to dig the bullet out of him. The Native Americans is called 'he who talks loud, saying nothing, or nobody for short. As it turns out Charlie was the son of Robert Mitchum's character. And Robert Mitchum has now hired bounty hunters to kill William Blake.

    Everything I've said so far happens within the first half-hour of Dead Man so as you could guess it's going to be a very full film, but then again that goes with the films style. Jim Jarmusch has said that the film is supposed to be a psychedelic western and aside from the electronic guitar soundtrack, (which was mostly improvised by Neil Young.) I don't really get that feel. Don't get me wrong the film itself is very weird, and even has some surrealist moments, but I don't think I would ever use the word 'psychedelic' to describe Dead Man. No Dead Man feels more like your being dragged through the mud as you slowly die of gunshot wound in your stomach. The cinematography is all in black and white, and portrays the western frontier as a disgusting muddy dirty place people go to die. The film does a better job of bringing you down and making you feel like crap, than taking you on any wild trip, not to say that's a bad thing though. Dead Man is often compared to Cormac McCarthy's novel Blood Meridian, and while I have some problems with this comparison, it is more accurate to compare it to Blood Meridian than to call it psychedelic.

    The problems I have with comparing Dead Man to Blood Meridian are, one it is not nearly as good as that novel. And two, Dead Man's tone doesn't match Blood Meridian's, in the first half of Dead Man, the film feels a lot like a black comedy. There are several moments that are supposed to be comedic, many of which made me laugh at least. Not to mention the general plot of the film is undeniably pretty funny. So in case anyone hasn't read Blood Meridian, let me just say that there are no comedic elements or moments in Blood Meridian. But as the film goes on it slowly becomes darker losing its black comedy element. This tonal shift doesn't really work, that's not to say that it's not executed properly but at the beginning of the film you're enjoying yourself and by the end of the film you feel like crap. It feels so cheap, there's nothing really special or interesting about how it happens or what happens, it just sort of happens. But then again maybe that was the point. Maybe I had just enjoyed the black comedy part so much that it frustrated me to see it go. Who knows maybe I'll enjoy it more on later viewings.

    Dead Man premiered at the Cannes Film Festival when it was first released, and was even up for the Palme d'Or. But despite this the film received mixed reviews from critics. Some hailed it as a 'postmodern masterpiece,' and others claimed that it was 'boring and unrewarding.' It's status as cult film should go without saying but just in case it does need saying; Dead Man is now considered a cult film. And I think it's cult status is earned. Dead Man is probably the second most imaginative and creative western I've seen. (the first being Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo) Even if it's not a flawless masterpiece.

  • jeffreytaos21 November 2007
    Please...if you think there is no plot and no meaning....visit a few Indian Pueblos, study some American history, read more William Blake. This journey into the fire of hell has the most beautiful and moving ending ever filmed. A train to hell...Have you ever had a dead end job? What is the connection to Nobody? Why is his name Nobody? What happened at the General Store? Why wouldn't the guy sell the Indian (Native American) tobacco? Please reconsider. This movie is not the best ever made, but it doe's have a powerful meaning as it looks into the hell that Native American's were put through. Depp is a messenger. I saw the film six months ago and felt that Depp's performance was superb. I felt that there was a powerful symbolism in the film related to our concepts of life, death, and dying. The ending is the journey into the other world. The questions the film brings up relate to our concepts on premonitions, rebirth, death, life, and dying. Isn't it amazing that a fellow was named William Blake only to be discovered by a man named Nobody? And, after all we put Native American people through, isn't it amazing that someone with the name of Nobody would venture to help a Dead Man, that is one who is sure to become dead. And what of the prophecy, when bullets become words....oh, the meanings may not be clear, but the provocation to thought is at a very extreme level. Joy to all. Live this life and remember, this is a sacred journey. Every step counts!
  • Pro Jury12 February 2004
    Although DEAD MAN has many of my favorite actors [three sad guitar licks] [fade to black]...

    This movie was profoundly boring by any measure [three sad guitar licks] [fade to black]...

    Although none of the old cowboys speak using the F-word [three sad guitar licks] [fade to black]...

    The fast jive talking East LA Indian (Native American) cusses like a modern day sailor [three sad guitar licks] [fade to black]...

    If any IMDB user seeing this thinks my review is a smug read [three sad guitar licks] [fade to black]...

    It may be best to avoid this film [three sad guitar licks] [fade to black].
  • It is often argued that the last "traditional western" was Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven in 1992; the final farewell to the genre, as such. Nonetheless, some notable westerns have been released since, an one of those is Dead Man, a spiritual western which ranks among my favourite films. When released in 1995, the film gained a vastly mixed critical verdict and although the film's reputation is constantly improving, many opposing opinions of greatness still exist. Often cited critic Roger Ebert infamously said "Jim Jarmusch is trying to get at something here, and I don't have a clue what it is." Dare I say that Ebert could simply have been oblivious to the film's metaphorical ideas, offering viewing interpretation? Personally, I believe so.

    Built on existential motifs and experimental film-making procedures, this is a western which relies on its heavy use of symbolism. Covering what is ultimately a man's longing to escape death and the inability to accept one's fate, Dead Man opens with a train ride, which I consider a metaphor for the protagonist's journey towards pre-spiritual enlightenment. Set against a jarring instrumental score performed by Neil Young, the twanging guitar chords burrow beneath the viewer's senses and subconsciously etch a permanently recognisable sound into the viewer's mind. As the title so subtly suggests, the central character (William Blake, played by Johnny Depp) is established as a "dead man" from the opening sequence. The opening sequence is comprised of a tiresome and seemingly endless train journey, whereby nobody speaks and Blake drifts wearily between observance and slumber. During this extended opening, the train's fireman speaks to Blake, describing his destination (the town of Machine) as "hell" and a town where you are "just as likely to find your own grave."

    On arriving in Machine –a factory-ridden town of garish mechanisms- Blake realises that the job of which he was given a letter for does not require his services at that present time, since he is supposedly late on arrival. The scenes shot within the town represent a community which is experiencing a steep progression of technological advance; essentially depicting the pollution and greed caused by modern labour in the Western world. Exhausted and disappointed, Blake meets a young woman selling flowers, who is a contrast of beauty in a land fuelled by ugliness and bitter consumerism, but she too seems rather bitter and lifeless. It should be noted that the flowers she sells are made of paper, meaning that although they will never rot, they are fake and inert. Plus, the paper is from the trees, which have been killed for financial and consumerist obligations.

    Upon meeting this young girl, Blake becomes entranced and sleeps with the woman. Unfortunately, her ex-lover returns the next morning to find them both in bed together; the situation escalates into a clumsy gunfight, whereby Blake gets mortally wounded. Realising that he has to flee the town, he meets a Native American (named Nobody, played by Gary Farmer) who thankfully saves his life. From this moment onwards, Blake becomes a wanted man, embarking on a surrealist mission of self-discovery with his newfound friend. This is used as a means of preparing for death and helps him to acknowledge his foreseeable conclusion upon witnessing the fragility of life.

    Filmed in black and white, Dead Man is a film which defines visceral and audacious beauty. The black and white photography tones the film in a way which is bleakly mesmerising and places a potent prominence on the protagonist's restless and consistently lingering emotions. I cannot begin to stress how important it is that a viewer recognises that it is up to them to dissect and interpret what is laid bare before them. Pondering many of life's questions through weighty symbolism and a subtle combination of wit and wisdom, Dead Man does what many films cannot and succeeds admirably. This is meditative viewing, the kind of which will become a reoccurring memory during those restless and weary nights. Allow Dead Man the courtesy to question and enlighten you to the splendour of sorrow and the transformation of life to death.
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