i hope you get cancer™

Sunday, October 23, 2005

When cult directors have a "mainstream" hit

Many British cinemagoers will have seen, or be planning to see, Broken Flowers, the new film directed by Jim Jarmusch starring Bill Murray, which opened in the UK this weekend. I was among that number, having popped out on Friday night with my daughters to see it. Having been a devoted fan ever since his first feature, Stranger Than Paradise, in 1984 (above), I came away on Friday relieved and satisfied. Relieved that Jarmusch hasn't done a Tim Burton. Burton left behind much of what made his films unique when he made 2001's Planet of the Apes, and his subsequent films have seemed pretty thin by comparison to earlier tours de force like Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Sleepy Hollow. No, Flowers retains all the Jarmusch touches: the slow-burning, absurd humour; the scenes that last just a few seconds longer than you expect before they fade to black; the less-is-more dialogue; and the killer soundtrack. Like I say, a relief. What is interesting is the extent to which Broken Flowers translates as a more "mainstream" film. The narrative is more clearly signposted than usual; there are few if any overtly "cool" signifiers (no cool characters, no monochrome) other than the aforementioned soundtrack. Yet if some reader reviews are any guide, the film's remaining idiosyncrasies may still be too much for some audiences unfamiliar with the Jarmusch grammar. Which is a shame, but better that than the alternative.