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NIGHT ON EARTH

USA, 1991 (MIFF 1992)

Director: Jim Jarmusch

The films of Jim Jarmusch invariably locate themselves in what one might call the 'poetry of the everyday'. His characters are constantly on the move, geographically and domestically uprooted, ramblin' through unre­markable towns and cities, accompanied by tape recorders to give the ramblin' a rhythm. Emanating from the 'small' moments that make up his films is a delicate poignancy and fragile beauty. All the lonely people, just look­ing for a way to fit in.

The ingenuous device of five taxis cruising five cities on the same night (even allowing for different time zones, the night slowly fades into day), enables Jarmusch to continue with his favourite preoccupations in Night On Earth. Set in Los Angeles, New York, Rome, Paris and ending in Helsinki (for once Australia is not the story's end), the five vignettes focus on the fleeting rapport that develops between the drivers and passengers: primal urban relation­ships between a lonely immigrant and dispos­sessed natives; a tired and sick old man, no doubt wishing he'd taken a different taxi, suf­fering in the back seat while the manic, reck­less driver rants and raves.

The central characters of these mini-narra­tives are the cities themselves and the actors who 'belong' there. Roberto Benigni single-handedly encapsulates a Rome worthy of Fellini, Matti Pellonpaa drives what could well be the cast of an Aki Kaurismaki movie through the desolate streets of Helsinki.

Yet for all the sadness, loneliness and dis-consolation that Jarmusch discovers scattered throughout the universe on this single night, it's a world full of mystery, comedy and strange encounters.

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