deadman review

Yannis Giannetakis Film and Moving Image Production Year 1

DEADMAN (1995)

Jim Jarmusch’s jazz western.

A young accountant by the name of William Blake, a name ingeniously chosen to match the real-life poet, travels to a small isolated town of the west to claim a promised job. He is tricked and finds himself penniless, in an unforgiving hellhole. Later that night, he commits his first murder and becomes a fugitive. Hunted by his victim’s all-powerful father who has placed a bounty on his head, as well as the tough sheriffs of the American steppes, he stumbles across Nobody, a native American with a thing for tobacco. Blake will be led in a journey through the dying west where he will find his poetry in the language of the gun.

With influences by William Blake’s poems, Jarmusch seeks the wild west legends and finds his place amongst them by delivering his contemporary viewpoint. He is not interested in going by the rules of the classic western. He turns the Masculine gunslingin’ protagonist into a hunted poet, the jaw dropping landscapes into quiet melancholic places; the Americans cease to be the stereotypical good cowboys and the glorious shootouts are reduced to the bare minimum and are deprived of their most iconic build-up, the duel. However, one can see that he still respects his subject matter. The money hungry businessman, the bloodthirsty bounty hunters, the colt 45s, the Indigenous people, the rough town with the dusty saloon and the savage hunt are all there to contribute to this twisted Neo-western. To a certain extent one could argue that Jim Jarmusch’s character William Blake is a representation of the relationship the artist has with their work.

Build with great dialogue, beautiful aesthetics which are refined by the black and white, a very peculiar editing choice all coming together with Neil Young’s lonely electric guitar. However, do expect a somewhat slow pace, even for a western.