A lone man (De Bankole) is on a mysterious mission, flying into Madrid then travelling to Seville and Alicante. Along the way, he has a series of clandestine meetings with a nervous violinist (Tosar), an enigmatic blonde (Swinton), a naked seductress (de la Huerta), a British guitarist (Hurt), an edgy Mexican (Garcia Bernal), a silent driver (Abbas) and an arrogant American (Murray). But he's all business, never distracted from his assignment and quietly hearing the philosophy that seems to swirl around his every move.
The film feels like a purring blend of Hitchcock and Lynch, with constant touches of black humour, dark tension and bizarre surrealism. Everyone greets the unnamed man with "Usted no habla espanol, verdad?" ("You don't speak Spanish, right?"), which could be either a legitimate question or a spy password. And everything others say echoes as well--mainly existential comments about the endlessness of the universe and the fact that, for all our plans, life is just a handful of dust in a cemetery. Or as some note in untranslated Spanish, "La vida no vale nada" ("Life isn't worth anything").
Whether our protagonist is absorbing any of this is irrelevant; he's getting the point. And De Bankole is one of those beautifully understated actors who can say everything without moving a muscle. He probably has less dialog than anyone in the film, and yet he's in virtually every frame. And we can't take our eyes off him. So all of the colourful people he encounters, brilliantly played with mercurial energy and twitchy personality, come across as twists on movie caricatures compared to him.
As usual, writer-director Jarmusch is having fun with his audience, respecting our intelligence while provoking thought in unusual, circuitous ways. This is definitely not a film for viewers who like lots to happen in a movie, or who want firm answers to the mysteries of the plot (or life). But for those who savour vivid filmmaking that takes us somewhere new and makes us laugh and think, this is gorgeous filmmaking.
Run time: 116 mins
In Theaters: Saturday 19th September 2009
Box Office USA: $0.4M
Distributed by: Focus Features
Production compaines: PointBlank Films
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 44%
Fresh: 54 Rotten: 69
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Producer: Gretchen McGowan, Stacey E. Smith
Screenwriter: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Isaach De Bankolé as Lone Man, Tilda Swinton as Blonde, Bill Murray as American, Gael García Bernal as Mexican, John Hurt as Guitar, Youki Kudoh as Molecules, Paz de la Huerta as Nude, Alex Descas as Creole, Jean-François Stévenin as French, Óscar Jaenada as Waiter
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