Dead Man ★★★★

"You know I just, I can't drink whiskey like I used to could."

Well I'll be damned. This movie is the perfect proof of how much my taste has changed over the last years. On a first watch I gave this 2.5/5 stars. I can picture myself ranting on about it being too slow, feeling lifeless and anticlimactic, going seemingly nowhere, having a weird tone and transitioning from scene to scene in the most sleep inducing way one can imagine. But back then the western genre was mostly unfamiliar to me and hardly one of my favorites (as it is now). Back then I didn't know the actors as I do now. These wonderful cameos and performances were basically unnoticed until... well, now!

The first scene (one of my favorites) shows us an accountant named William Blake from Cleveland traveling by train to occupy a position in the town of Machine. We see the landscape and all the passengers (except Blake) change, as the train approaches its destination, the end of the line or hell, as the fireman played by none other than Crispin Glover refers to it. The name of the town, Machine, is very on the nose, representing the death of the old west by the way of technology depicted as evil and against human nature. These elements are specific to westerns and the movie fully embraces them. But at the same time it distances itself from them to shed new light on these genre tropes. One important deviation is the character of William Blake fittingly underplayed by Johnny Depp. He's a very atypical hero, portrayed as a timid city boy who is clearly lost and doesn't belong to the old west. We follow his journey as he tries to find his spiritual place with the help of Nobody, an (also atypical) American Indian.

With the stuffy part out of the way, here are the members of this incredible cast: Johnny Depp, Gary Farmer, Lance Henriksen (as a ruthless cannibal bounty hunter!), Michael Wincott, Robert Mitchum, Billy Bob Thornton, Jared Harris, Gabriel Byrne, Alfred Molina, Crispin Glover, John Hurt. There, 13 reasons (yep, Henriksen's character definitely counts twice) to watch and love this. Having all these actors in one movie makes it that much cooler. Sure, half of them appear only as cameos but they really leave a good impression.

The simple yet beautiful electric guitar score by Neil Young really sets it apart, not only through its effective resonance but also through its precise placement and timing during scenes. Jim Jarmusch's direction has a dreamlike quality, delectably aided by the black and white cinematography. The tone is drenched in irony, with quite a few humorous moments that surprisingly carry a punch, given the bleakness of the film. The only downside is that I find myself agreeing with some of the aspects that used to bother me on a first time, namely the slow, dragged out pacing, especially in the second half. An inconvenience I'm sure I'll learn to acclimatize to on repeat viewings, with every night and every morn.

"Don't let the sun burn a whole in your ass, William Blake."