Night On Earth Review

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An episodic slice of life, Night On Earth follows five cabbies from five different cities around the world.


Often ranked at or near the top of most folks’ Best Independent American Filmmaker list, Jim Jarmusch is, of course, something of an acquired taste. The “cult” director’s 1991 effort operates around the simple but extremely effective premise of camping out in five global taxi cab rides to witness fleeting episodes between cabbie and fare, the suitably cosmic link-up being that all five are taking place at exactly the same time.

Kicking off in L.A. at sunset, and moving on to New York, Paris, Rome and finally winding down in Helsinki as day breaks, each episode is introduced by Tom Waits’ thumping score and a wall of clocks marking the time in each of our global village outposts, before we enter the familiar Jarmusch territory of mismatched pairings and existential disconnectedness.

Uncharacteristically, Jarmusch occasionally slips here into the Cliché Zone, with the weakest segment coming at us first, when dishevelled tomboy Corky (Ryder) pulls an Only-In-The-Movies fast one by turning down an offer of potential stardom from a high-powered Hollywood casting agent (the under-used Rowlands) because — shucks — she, like, just wants to be a mechanic, yeah?

Barring, oddly enough, Ryder’s rather irksome one-note gum-snapper, Jarmusch has extracted a coterie of vibrant performances here, simply by leaving his eclectic cast free to do their own thing — from Benigni’s hilariously hyperkinetic confession about his adolescent sexual escapades with pumpkins and a sheep named Lola to the unfortunate padre trapped in his back seat and the daffy interplay between Brooklyn homeboy Yo-Yo (Giancarlo Esposito) and elderly Eastern bloc immigrant Helmut (Armin Mueller-Stahl).

What Jarmusch leaves us with, then, is a highly entertaining and thoroughly oddball collage celebrating the typically inconsequential nature of most daily encounters. Nothing much really happens, of course, but, as the man himself is fond of pointing out,