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Broken FlowersNew Movie by Jim Jarmusch

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#1 Helene



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Posted 19 July 2005 - 10:43 PM

I just saw a remarkable movie, written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, called Broken Flowers. The premise of the movie is that Bill Murray plays Don Johnston, an aging Don Juan, who receives a cryptic message from someone who claims to be an old girlfriend -- unsigned -- and, through the prodding of his next door neighbor, Winston, travels to visit a handful of them.

There are several reasons I found this movie so compelling. It was quietest movie I may ever have seen. There is music on the soundtrack, but it doesn't blare. The noises of everyday life don't sound as if they were produced in a studio. And while Bill Murray is often the stillest of actors, usually it's to be able to make a big joke out of a small facial adjustment, reflecting the behavior of adolescent boy-men characters. In this movie, with rare exception, he faces his discomfort, and doesn't try to joke his way out of it with his face. Even Winston the persistently upbeat neighbor is neither loud comic relief or in-your-face sentimentality. He's just a funny, sweet guy with a bit of a mission, however Quixotic. I really loved this aspect best of all, but as a warning, it might be as interesting to someone else as watching paint dry.

If Murray is the center stone in the setting, there are jewels galore: Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, and Tilda Swinton, who play four great roles where not one has to die, become a junkie, commit suicide, or succumb to melodrama. Both Alexis Dziena, as Stone's daughter, and Chloe Sevigny, who plays Lange's assistant, are wonderful in supporting roles.

The movie opens in August, and I saw a special screening for members of Seattle Films, the organization that sponsors the annual Seattle International Film Festival. No Trailers! Volume at a Reasonable Level! Jarmusch was on hand to speak and answer questions at the end of the screening. Some notes of interest:

In 2000 or 2001 Jarmusch had written another movie for Bill Murray and got financing for it. At the same time, he decided he didn't like the script, and told Murray the idea for Broken Flowers. Murray agreed to the switch, and when the script was ready and financing secured, Murray said that locations had to be within 50 miles of his house, with a shoot of six weeks. Jarmusch said that he was able to find locations within 100 miles of Murray's house, and he shot in seven weeks. The movie was filmed in upstate New York, Westchester, and New Jersey. One of airports did look like Newark, with its monoral. An audience member was able to point out exactly where one of the hotels Murray's character stayed in -- Ft. Lee, right off of Route 4. Jarmusch seemed genuinely amused that someone knew the exact spot.

Jarmusch wrote parts with Murray, Jeffrey Wright (who plays Winston), Sharon Stone, and one of the other women in mind. He asked Lange to play the role that Conroy eventually played. He said he doesn't watch TV, and didn't know who Frances Conroy was -- shame, because Conroy alone was worth watching Six Feet Under for -- but she was suggested to him, and after meeting with her, he wanted Conroy for the role that Lange agreed to play. He had to go back to Lange to see if it was okay to switch roles, and Lange said she liked the role she was switching into more!

He said he wanted to cast actresses in the 40-55 year old age group, who are often trapped between being too "old" to play the love interest and too young to play mothers and grandmothers. Sandra Oh, in an interview in Bust magazine, said that a casting director friend of hers was told to cast a role in a TV series about a women in her 40's who was dating a younger man. Instead of hiring one of the 45-year-old actresses who came to audition, the Network Guys told her to find "30 to play 45." I'm really glad Jarmusch wanted 45-55 to play 45-55, because the performances are so fine.

#2 dirac


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Posted 20 July 2005 - 04:46 PM

I look forward to seeing this. All these terrific actors! Jeffrey Wright is a favorite of mine. (He had one extraordinary scene in “The Manchurian Candidate” that was worth the price of admission; he played a mentally damaged veteran and he appeared in front of Denzel Washington like a revenant, a man who was already a ghost.)

It's nice that Jarmusch is giving these opportunities to middle aged actresses. (It's amazing -- they hit forty or so, and suddenly they drop from sight.....)

#3 kfw


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Posted 20 July 2005 - 05:00 PM

Thanks for the recommendation, Helene. I haven't seen a Jarmusch film since the black and white Stranger than Paradise and Down By Law, but the latter is one of my favorite films, and both have moments of unusual quiet and beauty.

#4 bart


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Posted 20 July 2005 - 05:09 PM

Geat review. Thanks, helene. It's interesting how often one finds oneself, when encouraging friends so see a movie, talking about the annoying things it DOESN'T have or do. Good to hear of an exception to all the low expectations out there..

Incidentally, how old is the director? Surely over 40. Does HE find it hard to get good work opportunities?

#5 Helene



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Posted 20 July 2005 - 05:43 PM

According to his IMDb.com bio, he was born in 1953.

He said that he won't make a movie unless he gets full artisitic control. When in negotiations with Focus Features, which he said was a great distributor, he told them he had a deadline to close, because he had other, European, money that he'd lose if he waited too long. However, he made it clear that he would have made the deal with the European group, if Focus hadn't agreed that the first time they'd see the movie was when it was done. He seemed genuinely surprised when he said Focus lived up to the bargain, and never bothered him throughout the shoot.

#6 Helene



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Posted 30 July 2005 - 11:11 AM

There's a feature on Jim Jarmusch, focusing mainly on Broken Flowers, in today's Washington Post.

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