Johnny Depp is a DEAD MAN
I think I have a new favourite.
How I had missed out on seeing this film previously in my life I do not know, but I am so glad that I have found it. On my first viewing alone, it was instantly challenging for the coveted title of my favourite film of all time, now having seen it a few times it has pretty much cemented itself as my favourite.
I definitely seem to enjoy Johnny Depp’s slightly more obscure work to his major roles. To be honest, in general I don’t always care for him much as an actor, he certainly doesn’t excite manic loondem inside of me that he seems to spark in others, but I love some of his roles, obviously “Edward Scissorhands” is a given (for me and most people I imagine), I thought “Crybaby” was ridiculous and phenomenal (and Depp became my personal style icon for life in that role), and now I have my favourite Depp role, William Blake in “Dead Man” to add to my slowly growing list, and my terrible life. I should probably check out “Ed Wood” as my next Johnny Depp slightly obscure venture, it will probably be right what I’m looking for.
Back To “Dead Man”, It definitely isn’t a film for everybody. It is pretty slow paced, with a perfectly timed improvised guitar soundtrack by Neil Young, which is the only music in the whole film and definitely won’t be to the taste of everybody, some pretty intense plotting and photography and an inevitably depressing ending. But Lord Almighty I loved it.
Johnny Depp plays William Blake who is sent to the town of Machine in the Wild West for a job he believes he has been promised, only to arrive and discover there is no such job waiting for him. Penniless and miles from home, Blake becomes stuck in the town of Machine, where a certain chain of events leave him fatally wounded by a bullet. Blake collapses outside town and is discovered by an outcast Native American called Nobody, who tries to removed the bullet lodged in William Blake, but stops when he realises that the bullet is actually keeping Blake alive, if he was to remove it he would instantly bleed to death, and so William Blake becomes a literal dead man walking (hence the title of the film). Nobody believes William Blake to be a reincarnation of the poet William Blake (who Nobody idolises) and decides to take William Blake to the Pacific Ocean which will be his final resting place, and where he can join the spirit world properly.
The climax of the film I thought was absolutely incredible and really amazingly shot. It stuck in my mind long, long after I watched it. The shots of Johnny Depp in a canoe drifting out into the ocean are pretty mind-blowing, as are the shots of Depp in the canoe dying, and witnessing a huge plot moment on the bank of the ocean, unable to do anything about what he can see. The departing shots of the canoe drifting solo from above pretty much burnt themselves on my retina, seriously amazing –
The final scenes aren’t the only good part either, the entire film is glorious, and with a slightly hallucinogenic quality of the film’s pace and its representation of reality, particularly the further into the film, and the closer to death Blake gets, the more twisted and distorted and wild-eyed the film seems to become. From about an hour in Depp’s character William Blake really starts to change as he starts to head towards the end of his life, and his infamy as an outlaw grows, and the film, and scenes that happen from that point onwards really reflect this.
The way “Dead Man” is shot is amazing, at several points in the film the camera switches to a Hitchcock-style first person view to show the view from the eyes of the William Blake character, this is often vivid landscapes of forests, and masses of white-trunk trees,which are just absolute wow.
There are so many fantastic and memorable scenes also – the psychotic fur trapper scene is wonderful, featuring cameos from Iggy Pop and my ultimate all-time DILF Billy Bob Thornton, the lightly comic trading post scene this time featuring a cameo from Alfred Molina, and the pretty gross head-squelch scene which features one of the more (non-Johnny Depp related) iconic images from the film –
However my personal favourite scene of the whole film is the scene where Blake loses Nobody and has an adventure on his own. He is visited by nature spirits (very reminiscent of Princess Mononoke), and gets caught in a brief gunfight where a fawn gets shot instead of Blake killing it. The scene where William Blake crouches down next to the fawn and cradles it, and then paints his face with the blood of the fawn that accidently died because of him is just too beautiful. The fawn here is an innocent victim, just as Blake is, I think in this scene the reality of his situation hits him properly and the character makes peace with himself –
see it here on youtube, my favourite scene in cinema? Quite possibly :
I watched the film online originally (you can find it on youtube or at http://www.moviewatch.in if you haven’t seen it but would like to), but I had to get the dvd for repeated watches in future. It was originally critically panned, but the film appears to have found an entire new fanbase over time, with several prominent critics now declaring it one of the very best films of the 90s, and a really important American film, and hey surprise surprise I agree. Absolutely amazing film, I could watch it over and over again.