Repertory Picks

A Frontier Fever Dream in Kansas City

On Film / In Theaters — Aug 29, 2018

Tonight, cinephiles in the territory of Missouri will have a chance to reckon with Jim Jarmusch’s 1995 Dead Man, as the surreal western screens at Kansas City’s Tivoli Cinemas in a gorgeous new restoration. With his first period piece, a black-and-white film set in the far-flung frontier of nineteenth-century America, Jarmusch whittled down his signature deadpan wit and existential poetry to a razor-sharp point, creating a dreamlike and foreboding landscape by way of Robby Müller’s stark black-and-white photography and Neil Young’s jagged, feedback-heavy score. In the film—both an indictment of the country’s legacy of despoliation and a meditation on the borderland between life and death—Cleveland transplant William Blake (Johnny Depp) finds himself suddenly wounded and on the run from the soot-choked outpost of Machine, eventually crossing paths with the itinerant outcast Nobody (Gary Farmer), who guides the erstwhile accountant on a spiritual odyssey to the coast. Dead Man combines “startling beauty . . . with actions of devastating cruelty,” writes critic Amy Taubin in her liner essay for our recently released edition of the film. Its images’ “emotional power and mystery have not diminished in the more than two decades since its release.”