Film Review: THE DEAD DON’T DIE (USA 2019) ***

The Dead Don't Die Poster


The peaceful town of Centerville finds itself battling a zombie horde as the dead start rising from their graves.


Jim Jarmusch


Jim Jarmusch

Jim Jarmusch the king of independent American cinema re-invents the zombie movie with THE DEAD DON’T DIE as he did the vampire genre with ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE.  THE DEAD DON’T DIE, however, is more of a comedy, the type Jarmusch is better known for, as demonstrated in his earliest works, STRANGER THAN PARADISE and DOWN BY LAW.  There are two directors best known for deadpan comedy – Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki and Jim Jarmsuch.  The film is arguably Jarmusch’s most ambitious to date, featuring an all-star cast and the film chosen to open the Cannes Film Festival this year in May.

It all starts to happen when the earth tilts out of its axis.  “Something weird is going on,” says Centreville Police Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray) to his partner, Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver) after a hilarious encounter with Hermit Bob (Tom Waits).  Ronnie predicts that things do not look good to the very end, a line that the film comes back to several times at different points in the film.  That night in Centreville, 2 zombies (Sara Driver and Iggy Pop) suddenly rise from their graves to kill the workers at the local diner.  The reason for the earth’s off kilter is attributed, according to news lady Rosie Perez on TV, to fracking by the oil companies.  More zombies rise from their graves the following night eating up many of the town’s residents as well as three teens (including Selena Gomez) who meet their death.  Director Jarmusch does not skimp on the gory graphics, the corpses with their innards pulled out from their bodies left by the zombies, enough to make anyone throw up including the third police officer, Mindy (Chloe Sevigny).  “This will not end well,” repeats Officer Ronnie.  “How do you know?” Asks Chief Cliff to which comes perhaps the film’s most unexpected reply.

The film benefits from a  superb cast, many of which are Jarmusch’s past collaborators.  Adam Driver was in his last film PATERSON, arguably Jarmsuch’s best movie, Tom Waits in DOWN BY LAW and Tilda Swinton who steals the show as a sword yielding mortician of the town, speaking with her strong native Scottish accent.  Drive demonstrates his talent for deadpan comedy here, Jarmsuch giving him the best lines.  Other well known stars in the cast include Steve Buscemi as Farmer Miller, Danny Glover, RZA, Caleb Landry Jones and Carol Kane.

The film drags a bit running close to a n hour and three quarters.  But it is Jarmusch style to let his film play along with long lazy takes that he made famous in STRANGER THAN PARADISE.  Nothing much seems to happen except the zombies but that is the pleasure of a Jarmsuch film.

Do not expect THE DEAD DON’T DIE to be a masterpiece.  After all, it is a zombie movie – the best thing it can achieve is cult status, as in George Romero’s zombie flicks.  But the film is totally amusing aided by solid performances from his all-star cast and some hilarious writing coupled with a bit of parody.


Film Review: PATERSON (USA 2016) Top 10 *****

paterson.jpgDirector: Jim Jarmusch
Writer: Jim Jarmusch
Stars: Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Nellie

Review by Gilbert Seah

PATERSON is the brilliant but quiet new film from Jim Jarmusch that focuses on a working-class poet (Adam Driver) in a small New Jersey town who practices his craft amidst the quiet magic of everyday life.

Those familiar with Jarmusch will be glad to notice the director’s traits from his early films present in PATERSON The wide camera panning of STRANGER THAN PARADISE and the dead pan humour of DOWN BY LAW are a few examples. But PATERSON is clearly his best film. Jarmusch captures the simplicity of an American small town and both the complexity and beauty of life amidst the daily routine of bus driver wannabe poet called Paterson in the town ale called Paterson.

Jarmusch shows that magic is where one finds it. The pleasures from the film derive from the audience’s observations of the film. For one, the film is a film about Paterson’s routine. It is a week in the life of Paterson beginning on a Monday and ending on the morning of the Monday of the following week. Paterson carries on his daily routine that includes getting up in the morning at the same time at 6:10 (though he wakes up late one of the days). He kisses his wife, eats the same breakfast of fruit loops and milk and goes to work at the bus garage where he drives the the bus of the same route everyday. When he gets home, he walks his dog, Marvin, and stops for a beer at the neighbourhood bar, chatting with the locals.

Amidst the driving and walking, he writes poems – beautiful and simple ones that the audience can relate to. All these might sound mundane, but Jarmsuch has created a really beautiful film, aided by his muse, actor Adam Driver, whose every facial expression registers his mood and emotion. The Toronto Film Critics Association awarded Driver the Best Actor Prize this year.

PATERSON is also a love story. The two lead a simple life of the same daily routines, but it is clear that they care for each other – deeply. It is tolerance and sensitivity that are the ingredients that make their love so strong. In one of his poems. Paterson says, I see other girls but if his wife were to leave him, he would tear his heart out.

It is also noticeable that Paterson is the happiest character in the film. The bartender Doc envies Paterson’s relationship with his wife. Everett, a local is heartbroken from unrequited love while his fellow bus driver, Donny is always full of personal and family problems. Everything seems to turn out right for Paterson, even his wife’s cupcake sale at the farmer’s market.

A key character in the story is surprisingly Paterson’s dog, Marvin. While Paterson straightens the post of his letter box very day after work, it is Marvin that topples it slanting every day when Paterson is at work. Marvin also chews up Paterson’s book of poems one day, an act that brings the film to its climax.
PATERSON turns out to be the perfect poetic film – visually as well as in the character’s writings. Effective, moving and thoroughly captivating, PATERSON is a a genuine feel-good movie without artificial sweeteners!


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