Film Comment: Best of the Nineties (01/00)

Dead Man (Jarmusch) — When, right from the start, Crispin Glover appears on a train heading west in 1875 and starts ranting like the prophet who sticks his head out of an alley at the beginning of Moby-Dick, you know you’re in for trouble. This mystical fable is always funny—right up to that point where hero Johnny Depp finally begins to get the joke, and by that time all the very fin-de-siècle irony that had previously driven Jarmusch’s work (not to mention that of countless others) has completely burned off.

Bill Pullman — In all of Pullman’s best roles (in The Last Seduction, Malice, The End of Violence, and most of all Lost Highway) he plays a cuckold. But he’s not just been tricked and betrayed by whoever’s playing his wife in any given moment; somehow he’s gotten it across that he’s been cuckolded by promises he bought long ago and could never quite surrender, that he’s been cuckolded by the time and place those watching share with him, by the history the America of the last ten years has failed to make.

Most Underrated: Sheryl Lee in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me — The terror in her eyes, around her mouth, in the scene when her father berates her at the dinner table is what Norma Desmond meant when she said, “We had faces then.” As is the look on Jodhi May’s face just before she jumps—or, really, floats—off the cliff at the end of Michael Mann’s The Last of the Mohicans.

Film Comment, Jan/Feb 2000
(cf. GM’s ’80s Film Comment best of)

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