Dead Man (1995)

Directed by Jim Jarmusch

Starring Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer

“Some men to sweet the light, some men born to endless night.” -William Blake

Called an “acid Western” by director Jarmusch, Dead Man definitely turns the genre’s stereotypes on its head. Shot in black and white with unflinching violence and sarcastic dark humor, the film is unlike any western you’ve ever seen.

William Blake is a prosaic accountant journeying to a rough western town called Machine for a apprenticeship position. Once there, he finds his position filled, pockets empty, and options depleted. A local whore takes him in, but when her jealous boyfriend finds them together, Blake is mortally wounded, forced to kill a man, and flee for his life.

He awakes being tended to by a Native American named Nobody, who tells him his wound is serious and his days numbered. When he learns of Blake’s name, Nobody, a poet pundit, vows to become Blake’s companion. He teaches Blake how to use a pistol, saying, “this will be your new poetry, and your words will be written in blood.” Together the duo journey to the sea in the west where Blake will die, but not before encountering a host of interesting quirky characters, including 3 doomed bounty hunters led by Lance Henrikson, a group of bumbling trappers including Billy Bob Thorton and Iggy Pop, and a racist missionary played by Alfred Molina.

Dead Man is simultaneously funny and dramatic, mimicing the stages of a psychedlic trip that darkly examines the mortal coil. There’s meaning and symbolism here, if you submit yourself to the film’s world and though bleak in its conclusion, its whimsicality leaves you with a wam feeling of cathartic soulfulness.

Other Notable Films by this Director: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), Broken Flowers (2005)