Thoughts on Night on Earth

Saturday, June 12, 2010 9:41 AM By Simon

Because this is an anthology film, detailing moments between cabbies and passengers around the world, I'll talk about each one individually.

1: Los Angeles

-Easily my favorite of the five vigenettes. A tomboy cab driver, Corky (Winona Ryder), drives a high-strung casting agent, Victoria (Gena Rowlands), from the airport to her Beverly Hills home. During the drive, they kind of-connect over men, ideals, and Victoria's business dealings over her cell phone (this was 1991, keep in mind). In the end, Victoria realizes Corky would be perfect for a role she's casting, and offers it to her. Corky denies, saying she wants to be a mechanic.

-Okay, so I'm not familiar with all of Ryder and Rowland's work before this, but I get the feeling they are ripping on their onscreen personas a bit.

-Nonetheless, they have this weird, instant chemistry that makes it seem like they've known each other for years.

-I love the Corky character, okay?

-Cell phones were huge.

2) New York

-A mild-mannered former clown from East Germany (the one from Goodbye, Lenin!) named Helmut (Armin Mueller-Stahl), on his first day as a cab driver, picks up a brash young man named YoYo (Giancarlo Esposito), only to have him take over the wheel when it becomes plainly obvious that Helmut can't drive for shit. Their Odd Couple-bantering becomes a screaming match between YoYo and his sister-in-law Angela (Rosie Perez), who he finds stalking the streets.

-A love two things about this: The opening, where YoYo desperately tries to hail a cab, being ignored, etc. When one does pull up, it quickly speeds off when YoYo says Brooklyn. But then Helmut, with the car slowly jerking along, pulls up, and he politely asks him what he can do for him, something like that. Just like that, Yoyo goes from invisible to a gentleman, a 'sir'. The other is when Yoyo pulls the taxi over to get Angela, and they two are screaming at each other at the corner. Now keep in mind, this is Rosie Perez. She doesn't yell, or even scream, she shrieks. All this, combined with Helmut watching them with a grin on his face, just cracked me up.

-I felt bad for Helmut, though. He drops the two off, and Yoyo tries to tell him how to make it back to the city, but Helmut takes the wrong turn. He takes off the red nose he had put on to maybe amuse, maybe annoy YoYo, and reveals a look of anxiety and fear. Like, goddamn.

-This is such a love letter, this story, to New York from Jim Jarmusch.

3) Paris

-An Ivorian cab driver in Paris, played by Isaach De Bankolé (of Limits of Control), gets bullshit from two African passengers, who upon hearing his origin, giddily repeat the phrase "Y voit rien" (he sees nothing there), which I guess is a thing against people from the Ivory Coast, because he kicks them out and picks up a blind woman (Béatrice Dalle). The two butt heads, about sight, his shit driving, etc. Ironically, after dropping her off, he gazes at her, causing him to get into an accident where he is angrily accused of being blind.

-I swear, I thought Dalle was Fairuza Balk when she first showed up.

-That is all.

4) Rome

-Roberto Benigni is an eccentric cab driver who picks up an ailing priest (Paolo Bonacelli) and details of his past sexual transgressions, shocking the priest to death.

-I don't know whether to punch Benigni in the face or give him some medication.

5) Helsinki

-Mika (Matti Pellonpää) gets called down to pick up three drunken men, one of whom has been laid off, had his car destroyed, found out his 16-year-old daughter is pregnant, and chased out of his house by his wife. Mika tells the two friends of the passed-out unfortunate his own story, maybe the most depressing thing ever. The two lose sympathy for their friend, leaving him in the cab to pay the fair.

-As far as stories go, this is a good way to close, with the laid-off man, still drunk, sitting on the snowy curb as morning comes.

-This is, apparently, a production filled with Aki Kaurismäki's 'trusted' actors. So, yeah.

It was funny and sad and weird, and I liked it. Good day.


Colin Biggs said...

Benigni is always an oddball, I can never appreciate his work.

June 12, 2010 at 1:02 PM
SugaryCynic said...

this sounds cool. I will watch it now.

June 12, 2010 at 2:56 PM
Alex said...

This is one of the few Jarmusch films I haven't yet seen, and I don't know why I've been putting it off. The premise is cute and with that cast I'm pretty excited! Thanks for your thoughts, they'll speed up my viewing.

June 12, 2010 at 8:04 PM
Chris said...

Have you seen Ghost Dog? That's my favorite Jarmusch movie, I added it to my new A-Z film recommendation list on my blog.

Jarmusch's 'Broken Flowers' and coffee & cigarettes had their moments, to me quite good. A lot of his stuff is very slow, though.

I'll look out for Night on earth

June 13, 2010 at 12:52 PM
Robert said...

I haven't seen this! It sounds really, really interesting though. I like these types of segmented short-film movies.

June 13, 2010 at 9:18 PM