Thursday, August 18th, 2005

Bring Me Dead Flowers

Jim Jarmusch is a tricky one. With his latest, Broken Flowers, he manages to convince you that you’re watching a story about a lifelong bachelor who sets out in search of a long-lost son he never knew he had. And the film functions pretty well on that narrative level for most of its length, but if that’s the only level on which you’re taking it in, it’ll almost certainly be a disappointment. But if you’re appreciating it as a character study of a man searching for some sense of who he was and how he’s become the person he is today – all done completely internally and silently – it’s far more compelling.

I’ve not seen many of Jarmusch’s films before this – just Coffee & Cigarettes and I don’t think that can count as representative of his work… I thought he did a good job of balancing out the humourous moments (mainly Bill Murray’s exchanges with neighbour Jeffrey Wright) and the more thoughtful, introspective ones (there’s lots of shots of highways, roads, maps, etc – he’s on a journey, get it?). This probably counts as one of the more conventional films in Jarmusch’s ouvre, though. His other films seem considerably more out there – maybe this one was a bit of a departure for him?

Murray continues to milk his now-trademark deadpan, catatonic hangdog persona to an almost zen degree. No one else conveys so much or so little with a placid stare or slightest expression. Is he contemplating the emptiness of his existance or wondering what he’s going to have for lunch? YOU DON’T KNOW. One could argue that by now he’s phoning it in and probably has to work harder at voicing Garfield, but when the performance works as well as it does in the film, complaining seems crass. If there’s any question, it’s how someone like Murray could have been a playboy in his youth, let alone now. But perhaps that’s the point of contrasting Murray today with the women he was once with – to make you wonder who he had to have been back then to be with them, and how he’s ended up as he has. Hmm.

Remember how MTV banned the video for British Sea Power’s “Please Stand Up” because of their use of the apparently objectionable phrase “wetter and wetter”? Not that you can really make those words out unless you’re really listening for them… well anyway, you can see the vid here. It’s not as if MTV would have played the clip anyway… Via Salon’s Audiofile. If the link doesn’t go directly to the video, just search/browse a bit. The site has some good stuff, but is a little tough to get around.

The new and improved Junkmedia has an interview with The Decemberists. Well, it’s really just Colin. Gothamist also has an interview. Junkmedia’s doing the blog thing, too. Gothamist doesn’t have to – it’s already a blog.

Prefix has a nice little two-part interview with Eric Johnson of The Fruit Bats.

More shows – A Stille Poster has info that Australian pop collective Architecture In Helsinki will be in town on October 1 at a venue to be determined (Pitchfork has their tour diary as this week’s feature). Also, The Hold Steady/Constantines tour is finally stopping in Toronto at the Opera House on November 2, and as Chris from The Final Bell pointed out in yesterday’s comments, Richard Thompson will be at Trinity-St Paul’s on October 20 with Danny Thompson and Eliza Gilkyson. The October concert sched is rapidly getting out of hand. Decisions are going to have to be made. Hard decisions.

The Torontoist week in shows leads off with the Three Gut 5th anniversary party going down on Saturday. Related articles – Three Gut’s Lisa Moran gave NOW a list of favourite reminiscences of the last five years, eye compiles their ultimate Three Gut mixed tape and Cokemachineglow has an interview with the gut of three himself, Jim Guthrie.

Anyone familiar with The Zephyrs out of the UK? Allmusic describes their first album When the Sky Comes Down It Comes Down on Your Head as combining “the epic grandeur of Mogwai with the country-rock of Gram Parsons“, which would pretty much make them my favourite band ever. Okay, it doesn’t HAVE to sound like a “Hickory Wind”/”Like Herod” mashup (but how great would that be?) but is it good? Their stuff is muy expensive over here, if you can even find it, so I’d like to get some testimonials before I start plunking down import prices.

np – Archers Of Loaf / Vee Vee

By : Frank Yang at 8:21 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Torr says:

    BSP’s "Please Stand Up" would have been played on MTV2’s Subterranean show, so this stupid ban does have an effect.

  2. Yan says:

    Most of the reviews I’ve read of Broken Flowers suggest that it is indeed a bit of a departure. Your review seems a bit lukewarm, but you should definitely look into Jarmusch’s marvellous back catalogue–especially Down by Law, Mystery Train, and Stranger than Paradise.

    The Kids will tell you to see Dead Man, but that’s because they suck and enjoy things that suck. And because they’re ignorant and haven’t seen his earlier work.

  3. Frank says:

    I remember looking into Dead Man when it came out on account of the Neil Young score, and decided I probably wouldn’t be able to appreciate it, at least not back then.

    How about Ghost Dog? That looked neat.

  4. Dave says:

    I enjoyed Dead Man and Ghost Dog – haven’t seen the others yet. I’d like to think I’m a kid but I’m not. The one constant that I’ve seen through the 3 films that I have had to chance to check out ( Broken Flowers and the two above ) is the literary influences. Ghost Dog = The Hagakure. Broken Flowers = Don Juan. Dead Man = The poetry of William Blake.

  5. george of the jungle says:

    ghost dog and dead man are both fantastic. better than dead flowers.

  6. Michael says:

    I have some of the Zephyrs earlier stuff. If you’re interested, send me an email with your address and I can send you a cd with what I have as a thanks for the great covers you’ve posted. Michael

  7. Craig says:

    I recently acquired the Zephyr’s latest release "Bright Yellow Flowers on a Dark Double Bed," and it is quite good. The "Gram Parsons meets Mogwai" label is reasonably apt, but the emphasis (at least on the album I’ve heard) is definitely more toward the folk/country side of things, in terms of instrumentation and lyrics. A lot of textured string sections too, most of which are surprisingly well executed and never schmaltzy.

  8. Jay says:

    Thanks for the mention, Frank. You the man.

  9. Yan says:

    Ghost dog is fun. And maybe Dead Man isn’t as crappy as I like to pretend, but I don’t understand why many people love it. Besides Iggy Pop’s bonnet-wearing cameo, which was fantastic.

    I don’t recall if there are strong literary links in the earlier movies. There are strong musical ones though. Most of them either guest or star Tom Waits and John Lurie (of the Lounge Lizards and "Fishing with John" fame). Mystery Train also has Screaming Jay Hawkins and Joe Strummer in it.

  10. juan m freire says:

    Frank, you should definitely buy that second album by The Zephyrs, ‘When The Sky Comes Down,…’, their best by far. Shoegazing meeting country-rock in Mazzy Star’s heaven. ‘Stargazing’ is an immediate classic.