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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Lisa and I watched Broken Flowers last night, Jim Jarmusch's latest movie-of-awkward-pauses.

What I found remarkable was the extreme variation in the acting. The women were strong, vibrant characters with a definite point of view. Sharon Stone, in particular, was awesome. My lord, that girl can act. Meanwhile Bill Murray was doing a more listless version of his detached character in Lost in Translation. He's not mailing his performance in: he's working hard to give us as little as possible to go on.

I get that this is part of what certain audiences loved about the movie. You can make anything you like of Bill Murray's character. You can decide he's feeling deeply but expressing nothing. You can make him out to be clinically depressed. You can decide he doesn't feel anything. Impossible to say, really. What dreams may come when you sleepwalk through life.

There's a whole esthetic of unresolved melodies. There's Swing that wanders through the minor keys but winds up on a major chord, and Bop that might easily end up on a diminished minor seventh. (Side question: did Bop kill jazz as a popular music form, or did jazz people get excited about Bop because the mainstream audience had already moved on?)

Personally I find it more courageous to tell us what the character is feeling. I think that's a pretty important part of the story. To me, the reason I'd watch a movie like Broken Flowers is to understand a character who sleepwalks through life, so when I meet someone who's sleepwalking through real life, I feel I have some perspective on their experience. I think telling the story without a revelatory ending is a form of emotional cowardice.

I find it ironic that narrative artists are so often drawn to portraying characters with no ambition, or no ability to realize their ambition. Ironic, because if you're watching the movie, they've realized their ambition. Jim Jarmusch gets a movie made every two or three years, which is pretty good for an indie director who writes his own stuff. Obviously he is completely capable of getting off his couch; obviously he's passionate about his own life and work. What fascinates him about a guy who can't get off his couch without being prodded?

(Maybe it's that he has to fight to get off the couch, and to express his own emotion, and so he makes a cautionary tale for himself about someone who can't?)

You don't see the unresolved diminished minor chord endings on TV so much as you do in indie films. Maybe a bit on Showtime and HBO, in shows like Huff?

Anyway, it's an interesting film to watch. Sometimes the movies you like tell you less than the movies you don't like. And there's certainly enough in Broken Flowers to reward the watching.

Happy Boxing Day!


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