Five cities. Five taxicabs. A multitude of strangers in the night. Jim Jarmusch assembled an extraordinary international cast of actors (including Gena Rowlands, Winona Ryder, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Béatrice Dalle, and Rober... more »to Benigni) for this hilarious quintet of tales of urban displacement and existential angst, spanning time zones, continents, and languages. Jarmusch?s lovingly askew view of humanity from the passenger seat makes for one his most charming and beloved films.« less
"If you haven't seen this 1991 classic comedy, see it now.
The premise is that we follow events during one night in taxis in several places around the world: New York, LA, Paris, Rome, and Helsinki. The best, by far, the one I always think of first when someone mentions this incredibly funny and touching film, is the one set in Rome with Roberto Benigni as the taxi driver. He gives this rambling monologue sort of a confession about lambs and pumpkins and sex that you HAVE to see the movie to appreciate. There's a priest in the back seat getting more and more `cardiac challenged' by the specific nature of this confession. It's a marvelous set piece, and I always rewind and watch that sequence at least 2-3 more times. It is just as funny on the 3rd viewing as it was on the first.
Beautiful fragments of human life
Itamar Katz | Ramat-Gan, Israel | 06/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There isn't much going on in Jim Jarmusch film, but there's a lot happening beneath the surface. Even more than he is a terrific filmmaker and a wonderful screenwriter, Jarmusch is a great observer of human nature. Even though 'Dead Man' and 'Ghost Dog' are the films that gave him more widespread commercial success, these are not typical of his style; Jarmusch's early film hardly have any plot at all, and all they give us is fragments of human lives. His approach towards his characters is always very up-close and personal, but never first-person; the viewer is always an observant, sometimes as comfortable as a close friend, sometimes too close for comfort, almost a voyeur. And yet, with his incredible insight into the human soul and what makes it tick, Jarmusch makes every one of his characters come to full life - even though there are no internal monologues, no revealing close-ups; Jarmusch creates his characters solely through their behavior; and he understands people so well, that in doing so he completely transcends the boundaries of language, culture and nationality.
Like Jarmusch's previous film, 'Mystery Train', 'Night On Earth' gives us several different stories about different characters from different backgrounds. This time, though, there is not the slightest connection between the stories, except a thematic one: we are shown five stories taking place in taxi cabs in five different major cities around the world.
The first story takes place in Los Angeles, and in it is a twenty year old (but she looks seventeen at most!) Winona Ryder, fresh from her break in Beetle Juice and Edward Scissorhands, who plays a young, perky, smart-ass, chain-smoking taxi driver and gives one of the most brilliant performances of her career; opposite her is another terrific actress, Gena Rowlands, as an uptight, busy Hollywood agent.
In the second story, taking place in New York, black Brooklyn native YoYo (Giancarlo Esposito) has a hard time getting a cab in Manhattan, and is finally picked up by Helmut, clown-turned-taxi driver, Eastern German immigrant on his first day at the job (and his first day on an automatic, as well).
The third story is located in Paris, in which Isaac De Bankole (the unforgettable Raymond the ice cream man from 'Ghost Dog') plays a taxi driver who's having a bad day, as he picks up a blind woman (Beatrice Dalle) who doesn't make him feel much better.
The fourth story, taking place in Rome, is practically full-out Italian comedy, with Jarmusch's old friend Roberto Benigni plays a bizarre taxi driver who's giving a bishop (or is he?) a hard time for his money.
Finally, in the fifth story, located in Helsinki, the wonderful Matti Pellonpaa plays Mika, a cheery yet melancholy driver, who picks up three young drunkards and shows to them the true nature of pain.
Each one of these stories has a very distinct and unique atmosphere, ranging from comedy to drama, and revealing, often, the different mentalities of the different countries; the humanity, though, runs all the way through. All of Jarmusch's characters are different and yet the same; they are all equally human, and he understands them all, but each one on their own terms. Jarmusch's observation is always brutally frank and sincere, and always loving and forgiving, for all of his characters equally. Night On Earth is sometimes sad, often funny, mostly touching and always beautiful. There may not be much going on, but it never fails to fascinate."
Jarmusch Masterpiece on DVD for the First Time!!!
Michael K. Hall | Gresham, OR USA | 08/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"So it only took 16 years for it's first USA release on DVD, but I think it will be worth the wait. I only recently parted with my VHS copy of this film when Criterion announced it's release. While obviously I've not seen the release, there is no reason Criterion will disappoint. For those who haven't seen the film (and I've met dozens of people who still haven't) I believe it to be Jarmusch's best for many reasons.
With five stories (five cabs, five drivers, five cities in the world), all occurring simultaneously, it examines Jarmusch's fascination with the crossing and meeting of cultures and classes. The film is jammed packed with humor, pathos, sadness, thought provoking stories of people that you actually care about after only 20 minutes and so much more. Tom Waits (a regular contributor to the work of Jarmusch) does not appear in the film, but wrote the soundtrack instead (so in some ways is in the entire film!). I would have loved to have seen a 6th story with Waits as the cabbie!!
Every actor is awesome, some giving a career highlight performance, including Winona Ryder, Gena Rowlands, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Giancarlo Esposito, Rosie Perez, Roberto Benigni (who was mostly unknown at the time), and several European actors that I've never seen elsewhere, but have never forgotten all these years later.
It's hard for me to pick a favorite story, because like a great short story collection, my favorite keeps changing. The Italian story (with Benigni) is the slightest story with none of the serious subtext the other stories have, but it is also the funniest, so it's hard not to love it. Benigni, for me, has never been better.
The final story is almost "too" sad, with almost no humor, but the silence, the snow, the heartbreaking story that the cab driver tells, seems to transcend the sadness that shrouds the scene (I could definitely see Bergman doing this story).
The first story is great, with our notions of these two great actresses (Rowlands and Ryder) turned upside down. Who is vulnerable? Who is charge of their life? Who is truly happy? I'm not sure Jarumsch has ever been called a "feminist", but these two women are strong, smart, funny and I can't think of a female writer/director that has written two better characters? I might have to pick this as my favorite on most of my dozen viewings, but each story has something unique to offer.
For those who have seen Jarmusch's latest films (Broken Flowers and Coffee & Cigarettes), this one is closer to the latter film, but far surpasses it. While the five stories are diverse (of location, language, style), they are held together with Waits slippery and mysterious music, the passing landscapes outside the taxi cab's windows, and Jarmusch's themes of alienation, existentialism and the basic goodness of people trying to relate to each other even when the odds are against it.
For those who haven't seen this film the wait is, thankfully, almost over. Thank you Criterion! "
A Great Night on Earth
P. Morris | Culver City, CA USA | 10/27/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I watched this film late at night, when every sane person is supposed to be asleep, out of their cars and in their beds. Life still goes on, however, for the taxi-drivers who move people from one quiet location to another in the wee hours of the night. The locations are quiet, but the people are not, and the dialogue in this movie is humorous, meaningful, and real. A temporary bond is formed between passenger and driver (sometimes the roles are even reversed, as in the New York vignette featuring Helmut Grokenberger and YoYo, played by Armin Mueller-Stahl and Giancarlo Esposito, respectively). Armin Mueller-Stahl, born in 1930, may be relatively unknown to American audiences (as opposed to, say, Rosie Perez), but he did play Vertikoff in the George Clooney flick "The Peacemaker" (1997). Who is the stranger at the wheel who is responsible for bringing one home? What kind of person drives late at night, waiting for the dispatcher's call to a new address? A passenger has to pay him or her at the end of the ride, but there is still a feeling of gratitude, and even affection, towards this gruff conveyor of souls. "You're a good man, Mika," the half-drunk, initially hostile, Finnish workers tell their driver (played by Matti Pellonpää) at the end of their journey. Or a battle of wits takes place, as evidenced by the Paris vignette. Ivorian actor Isaach De Bankolé (who also appears in Jim Jarmusch's "Coffee and Cigarettes") is great here as a luckless "taxiste" whose prying questions are turned against him by his blind passenger (played by Béatrice Dalle). Roberto Benigni is of course hilarious, and does here what he does best: rapid, hilarious dialogue with a lot of gesticulation and wide grins. He and the actor who plays the priest (not a bishop), Paolo Bonacelli, have been co-stars before: on the Benigni vehicle "Johnny Stecchino."
I am really looking forward to the time when "Night on Earth" is made available on DVD."
Independent Film's Boss
movie fan | Winchester, Ma United States | 05/15/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Night on Earth - Criterion CollectionThis film is fantastic ...I had an old vhs copy and was glad to see it released in dvd format..it contains flawless..breath taking camera work..a perfect script and soundtrack and brilliant acting by a stellar cast..During the Helsinki segment I actually could feel the bone-chilling night coldness that was hanging over the city...Alfred Hitchcock, Orson Wells, Billy Wilder and Federico Fellini all great Masters of cinema had nothing over Jarmusch in fact I think he could have shown them all a trick or two had he had the chance to take them under his tutelage...If you enjoy true independent film this is the guy who wrote the book..He is also a man who will not sell-out to Hollywood and I am sure he has had many offers!"