June 613, 1996
Jim Jarmusch does a Western, and it's deeply weird, revisionist and reverential. Johnny Depp is William Blake, a fancy-pantsed accountant who leaves Cleveland for the West, seeking a new life. The opening sequence sets the film's complicated tone and unusual rhythm: after some lengthy minutes on a train, Crispin Glover shows up and starts talking to Blake. Read: Blake is in some surreal trouble now. Arriving in the town of Machine, he finds that the job he's expecting (at Robert Mitchum's metalworks factory) doesn't exist, and he's soon charged with murder and dying of a bullet wound in his chest. Tracked by three assassins (including the dynamic duo Lance Henriksen and Michael Wincott) and various lawmen, Blake is nursed by a Native American who goes by the name of Nobody (Gary Farmer). Their spiritual yet ironic relationship (Nobody says he thinks Blake is the Romantic poet, 50 years dead already) takes the form of a literal journey across a devastatingly beautiful landscape, enhanced by Robby Muller's rich black and white cinematography and Neil Young's evocative lone-guitar score. It's a subtle and often fierce meditation on the West as U.S. mythic concept. It's not as if John Ford hasn't been here before (see, for instance, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance or The Searchers), but Jarmusch's inventive, intimate twistedness makes the trip more insightful and less compromised than Eastwood or Costner's versions of same.