Coffee and broken flowers


Broken Flowersdir Jim Jarmusch4/5Director Jim Jarmusch won the Grand Prix at Cannes 2005 for Broken
Flowers, for which he also wrote the screenplay. Known as something of
recluse, his last film, Coffee and Cigarettes, epitomised his indie
brand of vignette-style observation and penetrative dialogue.Broken Flowers goes some way to replicate this approach and the eerie
nostalgic mood of his other well-known film, Ghost Dog: The Way of the
Samurai. Art-house, without being self-consciously so, the film hinges
on a superb performance by Bill Murray, who seems to have reinvented
himself as the character actor to fill Robert DeNiro’s place, left
empty after his descent into Meet the Fockers self-parody.An excellent script by Jarmusch serves up a highly original and amusing
premise. The resolutely single Don (Bill Murray) has just been dumped
by his latest lover and yet again resigns himself to being alone and
left to his own devices. Instead, he is compelled to reflect on his
past when a mysterious pink letter comes through his letterbox. It is
from an anonymous former lover and informs him that he has a nineteen
year old son who may now be looking for his father. Don wittles the
list down to four women and is urged by his neighbour Winston, an
amateur sleuth and handy man, to go on a cross-country trek in search
of clues from his old flames. It is clear from the start that he will
make this trip completely against his will, and his grumpiness, set
against the wonderfully effervescent Winston, makes him a character to
sympathise with right from the outset.Soft and slow-moving, the film then slips into something of a highbrow
road trip that reworks the genre’s standard conventions. Murray, with
his trademark deadpan that recalls previous outings in The Life Aquatic
and Lost in Translation, injects subtle humour into scenes that are
excruciatingly observed and infuriatingly implicit. Only Murray could
command a silent screen for two minutes with his understated mannerisms
and deeply lined face that creases softly as the accumulation of memories, painful and not, builds up.
The acting is a joy, and the four lovers (Stone, Conroy, Lange,
Swinton) intrigue with their different intensities and nuances. There
is the animal whisperer, the closet arranger, the realtor and the
hill-billy: all offer a different insight into the
common factor of Don. The film brought to mind Wes Anderson’s About
Schmidt, which is curiously ironic since Murray is a favourite of
Anderson’s. Both films are subtle explorations of the tiredness of an
existence too thoroughly lived-in, and the curious release when a
closure with the past is reached in old age. Broken Flowers is
touching, never sentimental, and eccentrically funny in its
observations, rather than relying on one-liners.That each scene fades out and each new scene fades in underlines
Jarmusch’s artistic leanings. So too does the abundance of symbolism.
Murray brings pink flowers to each of his lovers, in the hope of
raising some reaction to give the letter’s sender away. Even his
tracksuit bears some significance to the plot. Young men flit
hauntingly through his travels. Which one of them is his son? The
question is never stated by the unobtrusive direction. Yet the more you
try to analyse the clues on offer, the less obvious the solution
becomes. We are finally confronted by the essential principle of the
road movie, that it is the journey and not the destination that
matters. This is a beautifully shot film of clues: watch it closely.ARCHIVE: 2nd week MT 2005


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