A lot of critics have dismissed Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man as pretentious hipster histrionics replete with black-and-white photography, downbeat chic, and Johnny Depp, but with little emotional feeling. And it's true that the existential Western is hardly something new. But guess what? It's a Jim Jarmusch film. With its black-humored tale of a mild Cleveland accountant (Depp) who travels to the Northwest, shoots a man in self-defense and is forced to become a fugitive outlaw, Dead Man contains thematic echoes of Jarmusch's previous work, particularly Down By Law and Mystery Train. And it's as strong as anything else he's done. Jarmusch's trademark quiet irony, affinity for the outcast and oddball, and moonscape visuals suit the Western genre well. And yes, Jarmusch does exercise his hep-cat credentials, assigning soundtrack-composition duties to Neil Young and featuring Iggy Pop in a dress and bonnet.

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