View Full Version : Broken Flowers (2005)

08-06-2005, 12:26 AM
i have just watched it ...
i am now typing the review ...

do tune back ...
ha ha ha

08-06-2005, 11:03 AM
Broken Flowers (2005)

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton, Julie Delpy

At the Cannes Film Festival 2005, it garnered the Grand Prix
see also

The official website is here ...

Well, I guess many of you would know the gist of the film by now. It revolves around Don, a bachelor, who received a mysterious letter informing him that he had a son. He then went in search of the probable sender …

What is good …
-- Wow, definitely the soundtrack. I especially like the first song “There is an end!”
-- I like the way the film ends … but will everyone else? … Hmmm … maybe not …
* anyway, I am not going to spoil it for you *
Ironically, the film is about the present … not the past (despite his trip to the past) … but will the audience be “inspired” to live in the present?! … hmmm … maybe not …
-- In the film, the male protagonist would come across several young male (whom he thought could have been his son) … those scenes are good and thought provoking …
-- The performance of the 4 supporting actresses. Despite their very little screen time, they manage to imprint their images in you … interestingly, these women do seem realistic (i.e., you can identify with them as such characters do exist) … but put together, all the past women ended up pretty weird and rather caricature … I wonder if it is for the comical effect?! after all, it is supposed to be a comedy …
-- Ok, I agree that Bill Murray does carry his role with his minimalist approach … but like many actors who might fall into the trap of being typecast (i.e., always given a very similar role and look … he is so like his role in “Lost In Translation”) … can we see him in a very different role?!

What may be problematic …
-- Definitely the pacing, the film is rather slow and not too engaging (esp. with the minimalist approach) … also, it does not become too sentimental or emotional … hmmm, I really wonder if mainstream audience will “connect” with the film …
-- Instead of calling it a comedy, I would rather call it a bittersweet film … DO NOT expect hearty laughs … honestly, I do not hear the audience breaking into much laughter …
* wow … on a weekday afternoon, I can’t believe there is near to 100 people in the theater … I guess it is the first screening in Bay Area, and only in 1 theater … that probably explains it … *
-- Some things are too contrived …
e.g., the naming of Don for Don Juan, and he watched “The Private Life of Don Juan" on TV, and there were some lines about him being Don Juan, etc
e.g., Lolita for Lolita

Ok ok ok … I know a lot of critics are going to give it rave reviews … BUT forgive me, I guess I set my expectations much too high … such that I feel that it is a good film BUT NOT as high as many critics … oops … it reminds me of my opinion about “Lost In Translation” again … frankly, I think it is slow and not too humorous for mainstream audience …

Chris Knipp
08-09-2005, 06:04 PM

New again and still himself

Review by Chris Knipp

* * *P O S S I B L E * * * S P O I L E R S * * * *

Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers, his deadpan-meets-deadpan adoption of the newly serious minimalist Bill Murray, is certainly one of the American auteur films of the year.

Jarmusch is more conventional than usual in Broken Flowers in its focus on life, love, and loneliness and its use of name actors. Murray's character is named Don Johnston, and the movie jokes around with the similarity of the name to the Miami Vice glamour boy's, a reference that's poitnant since Johnston is, or has been, a Don Juan. Still a bachelor, he's rich from computers. Depressed when Sherrie, his latest girlfriend (Julie Delpy), leaves him, he receives a typed letter on pink paper telling him he has a nineteen-year-old son who's gone traveling and probably aims to look for him. Winston (Jeffrey Wright), Don's Ethiopian neighbor with a beautiful wife, three jobs, and five nice young kids, is an amateur detective, and he persuades Don to write down the names of the women who might have written him the letter. Then he sets up an itinerary, complete with plane and car reservations and MapQuest directions to the ladies' present addresses.

Unwillingly, the still-depressed Don takes several claustrophobic, deadpan Jarmush plane flights and, "a stalker in a [rented] Taurus," visits four women, Laura, Dora, Carmen, and Penny, played respectively by Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, and Tilda Swinton, following Winston's instructions to take them pink flowers, look for pink things, and ask them if they have a typewriter or a son. (The focus on pink indicates that the director, who hitherto seemed most at home in black and whilte, has adopted a more delicate and complex use of color than previously.)

It's all really just a shaggy dog story: it goes nowhere, though several possible sons appear, and each of the visits is specific and droll.

Since Murray's reluctant character's typical gesture is to stare into space, perhaps moving his eyes or lips slightly, Jarmusch accordingly has adopted much longer static takes, and the action drags a bit, by previous Jarmusch film standards. Broken Flowers is a new departure, and feels like mature work. Some of the sardonic hipness has been dropped in favor of quiet resignation, but the movie's still heavy with Jarmusch style and wit. The director's just as feisty and observant as he was in Stranger Than Paradise, but for the time being he's found an ironic alter ego in the hilariously neutral Bill Murray. Like all Jarmusch's movies, this one is sliced into discrete segments, conveniently delineated by the visits to the four women, which become the main episodes, book-ended by opening and closing passages in which Winston appears. As in Stranger Than Paradise, a new character turns up toward the end, only to disappear. This time he leaves no windfall.

You could see Broken Flowers as a jaded reversal of the classic Tom Jones search for the lost father. Instead of ending in a happy reunion and discovered identity, this time the son (Mark Webber), who's probably not, runs away when Don alludes to his fatherhood. But he doesn't say he's the young man's father. He says, "You probably think I'm your father," and the youth appears to think he's mad.

Broken Flowers is about jadedness, ultimately expressed in a feeling that past and future are equally irrelevant, but Jarmusch isn't too bored to provide funny observed behavior rich in contemporary artifact. As always in this director, the action is borderline absurd, but it's more specific and believable than ever, with an outsider's awareness of specifically American absurdities. Since that was equally true of novelist Vladimir Nabokov, one of our best writers and keenest delineators of American kitsch (he naturally preferred the Russian word, poshlost), it's not surprising that Sharon Stone's daughter -- a voluptuous and giggling young charmer who eagerly exhibits her body to Don -- is named Lolita.

Another brand of pervasive American kitsch is the jolly capitalist, and this is where Frances Conroy as shy Dora comes in as one of a husband-and-wife team of real estate agents specializing in prefab mansions. Best and most absurd of all is the girlfriend whose dead dog, Winston (more play with names), turned her from the law to a profitable practice as an "animal communicator." Jessica Lange and Chloë Sevigny are terrific as communicator and receptionist/secretary, who turn out to have a very special relationship.

Jarmusch's early movies were a string of deadpan hilarious zingers. He kept up the pace through the Eighties when he was America's prince of cinematic hipness. He took a few side trips, notably his haunting (but always absurd and hilarious) masterpiece, Dead Man, which was Johnny Depp's most recessive and also his greatest role; the Neil Young tribute Year of the Horse; and Ghost Dog:The Way of the Samurai.

Broken Flowers confirms Jarmusch's ability to grow while remaining pristinely sui generis. Don Johnston might seem his most sympathetic portrait except that we know so little about the man that he winds up being more neutral than sympathetic. But that's the point. Don Juan or not, in the end Murray's a male everyman, bumbling with women, out of touch with his past, miserable and unmotivated and essentially confused yet soldiering on, curiously self-possessed -- ultimately alone. (Broken Flowers won the grand prize at Cannes this year. This is at once a tribute to a very fine screenplay and directing job, and recognition of twenty-five years of outstanding and consistently original work.)

Posted on Chris Knipp website. (http://www.chrisknipp.com/writing/viewtopic.php?p=455)

08-09-2005, 10:09 PM
I kowtow to you CK.
I now feel like I've seen the movie.

I went to see Batman again with my roomie, and we saw the poster for Broken Flowers in the lobby. Post haste I asked the staff if I could have it. As they took my name and number my roommate said "don't you want that one?", pointing to another different poster of the same film, a darker one. "That one has too much pink in it for a man's wall".

So I am also struck with Jarmusch using pink as a dominant color.
If any man could use pink powerfully my guess is it's Jim.

Chris Knipp
08-09-2005, 11:11 PM
Don't let this keep you from seeing the movie, Johann -- it's great. And by the way the theater in SF was packed last night and people were laughing, plenty, though not uproariously. The focusing on color and a delicate one at that does I think definitely show he's opening up his camera to more variety, and finally not uneasy with color as he may have been, since some of his best stuff is in black and whilte. It's possible to be an artist and not be a colorist -- he's definitely growing, but remaining Jim Jarmusch. I honor him for that. Only a few directors manage it.

08-09-2005, 11:27 PM
Hey Chris,
I thought the ending was very good, but you gave it away ...

Some people (who have not watched the film) did ask me if he managed to locate his son ...

08-13-2005, 01:08 AM
Yeah Chris I think a "spoiler alert" would be wise for your review.

Now I have to disagree with Chris and Hegncs about the pacing. This film flew by for me, much more than any previous Jarmusch film. In fact I thought it was too short, went by way to fast. I would have loved an extra half hour of the film, it was that damn good to me.

Now some of it may seem predictable, the fact that four women could be the mother, I knew that we wouldn't have a film if woman number one was the mother, or two, etc. So basically Jarmusch had the option of offering the mother as the fourth person, or none at all. I hate that the conventions of story telling force this to be the case, but these other characters make the film worthwhile. This isn't so much a "can Don find his son", as much as it's a "look what happened to these people" story.

Don's relationship with his various exes seems to digress as the film goes on. The first one is extremely friendly, and has a daughter who takes after her mother quite noticably. Then you have the insanely boring married couple. This is a feat, to make boring funny. Many a laugh was heard as Don forked four carrots at once, such a simple touch, but effective. For once Murray's deadpan expression fit absolutely perfect, he was looking bored for a reason. Then there was the "busy" Dr. who couldn't give Don a dinner, a drink, or even a walk. And the last one ended with a punch in the face, so what seemed like a potentially fun trip, slowly spiralled downward.

I had to laugh at the line about a "stalker in a Taurus", because I happen to drive a Taurus myself. Granted everyone else in the theater found it pretty damn funny too. The film's humor bears many similarities to Sideways. It is an adult film about relationships, and of course a road trip. It remains to be seen if critics are going to laud this film as much at the end of the year, but so far it's been getting rather positive reviews.

Now for the question that's been bugging me all day, when did Jim Jarmusch become a director for senior citizens? I was the only person in a theater of about 80 people under the age of forty. And when I say old people were the audience, I mean old. There were senile old folks who couldn't find the screen (yes the big thing in front that the movie was playing on), having problems with hearing aids, wandering around aimlessly looking for a seat, walkers, canes, and all the rest. I began to wonder what brought this crowd out. Jarmusch was supposed to be a hip director, I expected a much younger crowd. I also never new Bill Murray to be a favorite of the grandparents, so I wondered what it was. My best guess could be that Roger Ebert (trusted critic to many Chicago citizens) gave it 4 stars. His word is as good as gold for many of these people, and that could have explained why they went to see this film. I had to laugh before the show at another old man wandering into the wrong theater several times looking for Bergman's new movie which he called "Caravan". I shouldn't laugh too hard though because I will probably be that old someday.

Anyways I thought the film was fantastic, and I might have to watch Dead Man again, but as of now, this is my favorite Jarmusch film, exceeded any expecations I had for it. Good film to see for my 22nd birthday.

Chris Knipp
08-13-2005, 01:23 AM

I'm glad to see you excited about a movie, which you don't often seem to be. I have to laugh at what you say about old people. And where I saw it was different though. I sat next to a young teenager, and there were mostly under-40 people with a few older ones including me. Look at it this way: when Jarmusch got started in the early Eighties, the 40-somethings that liked his stuff were pretty hip, and maybe those are the 60-somethings staggering around in your auditorium now.

The fact that the movie was slow for me might partly, but only partly, be due to my feelings and circumstances of viewoing at the time the other day. I know I would enjoy seeing it again. I think it's miles away from Sideways, because it's so phatic and deadpan, and because it's Jarmusch, man! Just because you see a hip movie about somebody driving around in a car seeing people....

I have been told about spoilers, and I will try to edit out that part which you aren't the first person to warn me I should have kept quiet about. I'm sorry.

I hope you understand that what I wrote was an appreciation. I like this movie a lot.

Do see Dead Man again. It's a work of genius.

08-13-2005, 02:12 AM
Originally posted by wpqx
... Now I have to disagree with Chris and Hegncs about the pacing. This film flew by for me, much more than any previous Jarmusch film. ...

Well, I am treating my friend to a film tomorrow, and my friend wants to watch Broken Flowers ... so let me see if my opinions change ... ha ha ha ...

Well, I guess I am comparing this film to other films, not necessarily specific to Jarmusch ... so, it does not move very fast ...

DISCLAIMER: The following should NOT be taken as a criticism, but some personal very humble opinions and speculations ...

As for other "indie" films that are mentioned in this thread,

-- I like "Sideways" but I "disagree" with many critics that it was the "best" film of 2004 ... maybe because I am not an american?! and I told my friends it wouldnt be a success overseas (did it?) ... nonetheless, I agree that it had a very good script ...
(when I mention I am not an american, I mean ... maybe americans know the cast so well and see a "breakthrough" of performance and maybe they love comedy more ...)

-- I only find "Lost In Translation" average ... why? because I like "In The Mood of Love" much better ... and I thought the former is too "similar" to the latter, but the former doesn't move as fast and it tends to stereotype (or make fun of) some Japanese culture ... Likewise, I suspect Americans know Bill Murray very well (at least much better than the rest of the world) and see a breakthrough in his performance ...

-- Likewise, for "Broken Flowers", I wonder if Americans actually like it because of Bill Murray?! or can connect with the "familiarity" of the 4 households (i.e., at least in US) ... I personally enjoy the 4 households but find them too caricature ...

08-13-2005, 02:41 PM
Originally posted by wpqx
Yeah Chris I think a "spoiler alert" would be wise for your review.

... Now some of it may seem predictable, the fact that four women could be the mother, I knew that we wouldn't have a film if woman number one was the mother, or two, etc. So basically Jarmusch had the option of offering the mother as the fourth person, or none at all. ...

Hmmm ...
I do not think the structure is a limiting factor ...

if I were to film this, I would give it a "twist" that it could be any of the four or none, and he "bypassed" them without detection ...
-- after all, he was not very acute or caring ...
-- moreover, the woman might think he was undeserving of being a father, and had changed her mind NOT to tell him ...
-- or maybe, the woman faced a dilemma of telling and not telling, but ultimately chose not to, for fear of the son leaving her ...
-- etc etc etc

But in the end, I will still let him NOT know
... but drop some hints to the audience
... HA HA HA

08-13-2005, 03:47 PM
Well perhaps some day you can do a remake, and like Burger King, have it your way.

Just want to repeat that I thought this film was fantastic.

Chris Knipp
08-13-2005, 04:13 PM
I love this film myself too, and don't think it needs to be tweaked or remade.


Jarmusch has always been very much admired abroad, perhaps more in Europe than the Far East though. In the Far East, isn't it likely that the subtleties of American social behavior may elude people? Whereas in Europe there is a fascination with them.

I agree with you completely on Sideways, and on Lost in Translation. The condescending treatment of Japanese culture was something that eluded American viewers. It did not elude Japanese friends of mine, who were not impressed. However, for me it might be worthwhile to watch this movie again sometime, because at the time I was turned off by the fact that the audience had decided it was a masterpiece before the opening credits rolled.

I don't think you "get" Broken Flowers completely if you are looking to find out who the mother is. It's a shaggy dog story, i.e., a joke (or jokey story) whose outcome has nothing to do with the expectations initially aroused. The key to the story is the story. There's nothing to be found out. Whatever Don Johnston did in the past, he only has now. And he's alone. Those portraits of women are hilarious and spot-on, but they have nothing to do with him now, not even the one who goes to bed with him and has a daughter who seems to want to too.


I would still argue that the pace of Broken Flowers is less snappy than Jarmusch's earlier movies. That's not a fault, just a fact. Or a maybe fact. My guess is that in Stranger Than Paradise, Down by Law, etc. not to mention Coffee and Cigarettes, which has to be considered an important central work for Jarmush fans (even though I didn't like it that much the first time I saw it, and I haven't seen it a second time -- yet), ----- the sequences are shorter, and so cut off quicker.

08-13-2005, 08:01 PM
I have just returned from my 2nd viewing with my friend (not an American) ...
Unfortunately, my friend also agreed that the pace was slow ... although we both felt that the film was good ...

What I like ... but did not mention last time ...
-- Consistent with the theme of present and past, there were 3 scenes (or 4?!) that filmed the road ahead (i.e., the future) but the camera on the side/rear mirror (i.e., the past) ...
-- I also like the soundtrack, apart from the main song ...

What I did not like ... but did not mention last time ...
-- I think this scene was very contrived (apart from all the "names") ... His friend was surfing the web about solving mysteries, and then Don appeared with a mystery ... ok, we know his neighbor enjoy solving mysteries, but it is too laud ...
* naughty grin *

Conclusion: (after 2nd watch)
-- I still think it is good BUT not a masterpiece ...
(which reminds me of what critics seem to like about Sideways and Lost In Translation)

PS: Are some jokes too localized?
e.g., the joke about "stalking in a Tauras" ... care to explain further?!
e.g., seeing the plate of carrots, rice and meat neatly arranged?!

Chris Knipp
08-14-2005, 02:55 AM
I feel like a stalker in a Taurus.

He's tracking down women -- he's a stalker. He feels like an idiot; he isn't getting anywhere; the Taurus is unworthy of him -- he's a wealthy man -- so it mocks him and his situation that he's in a Taurus. This line appeals to just about everybody and it sticks in your mind. Something about the image, and the repeated vowel sound, aw, aw, staw-her, taw-rus.

The plate with the food neatly arranged in quadratic shapes indicates the tightness of the people, the bloodlessness of their life, its sterility. This scene reminded me very much of the dining room scenes in American Beauty, and was to me an indication that Jarmusch was edging a bit more toward the mainstream with this sequence.

08-14-2005, 10:15 AM
Hey ... thnks ...

(1) So, I explained to my friend about the porche and taurus correctly (i.e., about being "cheapskate", my exact words) ... However, I did not think about the vowels though ... anyway, I just chuckled when he mentioned "why not get me a porche ..." but not really because of "I'm a stalker in a taurus" ...

(2) As for the plate scene, neither my friend nor I find it very funny ... the paintings were funnier though ... ha ha ha ... maybe because our country is too famous/notorious for being too neat/clean?! ... ha ha ha

08-24-2005, 11:05 PM
If Bill Murray was Finnish then it’s likely that he already would’ve been part of a few Aki Kaurismäki films. This Finnish giant’s trademark dead-pan low-brow style and humor has had a huge influence on Jim Jarmusch, especially early on in his career, but it seems like he has now gone back and stolen one of Kaurismäki's protagonists for Broken Flowers, his latest meditation on rootlessness and belonging. Kent Jones once said that Bill Murray is not an "actor." And Jarmusch has never particularly liked actors so this is a perfect match between two individuals who’ve been honing their craft for years. Murray plays Don Johnston, an aging Don Juan who, with much help from an Ethiopian neighbor (Jeffrey Wright), goes on a trip to locate the woman who has sent him a letter claiming that he has a son.

The sort of world Jarmusch usually creates in his films is never quite "realistic," and it’s not meant to be so (a great example of this would be his 1999 feature Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai with a modern day Samurai patrolling Jersey City). So there’s no need to be alarmed even if it’s quite unlikely that an Ethiopian with five kids would be living next door to someone like Murray with his posh pad. Nevertheless, Jarmusch, as he establishes with a tracking-shot early on, wants us to compare the differing environments of the two individuals. As for the "Don Juan" talk, well, it’s quite easy to decipher that from the film Murray is watching on his HD set, but people who’ve actually seen that film (Alexander Korda’s The Private Life of Don Juan [1934]) will note that the old film also had an aging Casanova trying to reconnect with his old flames. (Frankly, I have an easier time buying Murray as a Don Juan than as someone who made money with computers, whatever the hell that means.)

Broken Flowers has wit and charm to spare. It’s also meticulously observed (for the most part) and exquisitely arranged but Jarmusch, unlike Dead Man (1995) and the aforementioned Ghost Dog, never quite manages to study and explore the various clichéd elements he establishes once our Don Juan hits the road. The "Lolita" segment is practically saved by Bill Murray’s "non-reaction" reaction even though Jarmusch’s act here seems more like a Payne-esque riff on mid-American aloofness to our literary and cinematic worlds. And the subsequent segment is over-acted and directed so it ends up being quite rigid, right down to a block of rice staring Murray in the face. But Jarmusch and Murray’s journey finishes up strong with the third segment featuring the funniest line the film. We also start noticing what kinds of problems these relationships might've had.

Jarmusch's musical choices are usually on the mark and that’s exactly the case here. From The Greenhornes’ "There is an End" to "I Want You" from Marvin Gaye, but especially it’s the various Jazz tunes from Ethiopian Mulatu Astatke that help establish and keep a certain mood right till the end. Murray, whose segment with RZA and GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan was the sole interesting aspect of Jarmusch's previous effort Coffee and Cigarettes (2004), gives a minimalist "non-performance" performance which is the best of his career. He basically controls the film with his eyes and that’s quite a task. And he even comes through in the scene in which he is required to act. That scene takes place near the end of his journey and it gives the film some weight that it lacked. One only wishes that Jarmusch would've dropped his quizzically cool act for a few more sequences with heart, only because a film like this required it. He does finish the film strong, though, leaving quite a few possibilities for us to mull over. But unlike Stranger than Paradise (1984), which I still believe is his best film, or even Dead Man, and very much like its own protagonist, it’s likely that Broken Flowers will not mature with age.

Grade: B


*BROKEN FLOWERS is now playing in theaters nationwide.

Chris Knipp
08-25-2005, 01:42 AM
I think you're too harsh. Some interesting observations. I don't see what's wrong with Murray. The film was created for him. If he needs to "act" more, then the film is wrong too. It's different from other Jarmusch in style, but for me it works very well. No it's not as great as Dead Man, not much is, and not as much fun or as casual as most of his earlier movies, especially the first three. But I find it lets in more of the world, gets more specific about American society, and has a very well thought out screenplay that has much resonance, as I said above. It's too soon to say it won't "mature with age." Time will tell. Good what you said about the musical aspect, and you know far more about that than I, but you somewhat neglect the visual aspects.

08-25-2005, 06:24 PM
Actually, Kent Jones’ comment on Bill Murray’s acting was sort of a backhanded compliment. And my reaction calling it “minimalist” certainly was. While it may not seem like he’s doing much, the way Murray grips the screen even when he’s simply staring into space is something remarkable. That is acting, but not the kind we’re used to watching and admiring. It’s like an opposite of what Sean Penn does.

I’d like you to expand on “I find it lets in more of the world, gets more specific about American society.” I’m not sure if Jarmusch was quite successful here, even though it’s possible that was something he attempted. As I mentioned, the first segment was too easy, a bit cheap, something that wouldn’t look out of place in an Alexander Payne film. The shots during the travel didn’t carry the same significance as the ones from, say, The Brown Bunny, where we watched another man going back to connect to his past in someway (it certainly doesn’t help that Jarmusch shot the whole thing in Jersey).

As for visual aspects, I didn’t notice anything that was worth mentioning. The B&W of Stranger than Paradise and Dead Man is what Jarmusch is associated with. What did you think?

Chris Knipp
08-25-2005, 09:47 PM
You're right, the shots in Brown Bunny are more beautiful, the travel/road trip parts. However there are lots of interesting shots of houses and interiors in Broken Flowers I think. I think the little panorama of former now resettled girlfriends is a panorama of middle class America of sorts and I don't think he did that before, he was formerly rather more concentrated on oddballs and hip misfits. Even the possible "son" at the end has more real physicality than Jarumush formerly bothered with. The Dead Man people have physicality too, but they're like tintypes. That's what I mean by "lets in more of the world," meaning the world of contemporary America, and even the Murray character is more conventional, middle class. By the way I've pondered your comment that you can't quite believe him as a guy who made a lot in computers, and I don't think you can tell. I know a classmate from college who made a huge amount in computers, and he just looks like a sad sack too. I hope he doesn't read this.

What's so terrible about looking like an Alexander Payne film? I'm not quite sure. It''s rough to hold an artist to immitating his past work. Even if you're right, in this context it doesn't feel like Alexander Payne. Yet......

I love the B&W especially in Dead Man, which is quite fantastic, masterful, evoking period photography in ways nobody has ever achieved before. But I think the content of the images is very thoughful. Not all Jarmusch's photography was ever marvellous, just some of it. Stanger Than Paradise is just a look, the camera is not brilliant. Not that I don't like it, and of course the famous blackout transitions, which seemed kind of revolutionary and terribly hip at the time, and gave the movie a great rhythm.

Shooting all in New Jersey is unfortunate, but it's the closeups of insides and outsides of houses that he's focused on, and the lesbian animal communicator's place looks a lot like the West Coast to me.

oscar jubis
08-30-2005, 11:27 PM
There are four aspects of Broken Flowers I found most significant/meaningful/interesting:

*I see Don and the four women (and also Dora's husband) as being a cross-section of the baby-boom generation so one can actually regard these characterizations as generational commentary.

*The tracking shots from Don's house to Winston's explicitly encourage the viewer to compare and contrast. The households seem to have been placed next to each other purposefully, however unlikely or unrealistic that may be.

*Broken Flowers seems to advance the notion that the "Don Juan" lifestyle leads inexorably to loneliness and alienation.

*The dedication to Jean Eustache and Jarmusch's apparent cinephilia open the door for cross-referencing other films. I think it's quite possible Jarmusch makes a connection between his film and Eustache's The Mother and the Whore (a film about the aftermath of the failed May '68 revolution and Eustache's best-known movie by far). For me, this reinforces my take on Broken Flowers as a film about what happened to those who came of age during the 60s in America ("Flower Power" and all that).
Moreover, did anyone also thought of Bill Murray munching on raw carrot in Rushmore while viewing the dinner scene at Dora's "prefab" home?

Chris Knipp
08-30-2005, 11:39 PM
I agree with all you say, especially the idea that each woman is a generic comment on a certain generational type and lifestyle in America -- and they're somewhat interchangeable, according to chance and economic context, though each represents a radically different set of choices.

I think all the houses are meant to be studied and contrasted. And by the way I don't think it's impossible especially in a small town for a big expensive house to be next door to a relatively modest one. There's quite a variety just in the few blocks around where I live.

I'm not sure about the critique of the "Don Juan" lifestyle, which would be tritely obvious anyway, because I'm not sure Don Johnston is really a Don Juan so much as simply somebody who got involved with a lot of women and didn't stay with any of them. He was a butterfly. He flitted from flower to flower. The "Don Juan" moniker dignifies his indecision and inability to commit; this is obvious, but whether it is a point Jarmusch really wants to make is questionable. It's partly just an excuse for s sequential series of stunning vignettes, which is the film's structure and purpose. I appreciate your cross referencing. If this movie goes relatively unappreciated it will be an even worse crime than the ho-hum reaction to The Life Aquatic. It is a richly resonant screenplay and it's visually rich too.

Chris Knipp
09-03-2005, 04:32 AM
johann has posted a review of Broken Flowers on the Jim Jarmusch thread here: http://www.filmwurld.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&postid=12731#post12731

Howard Schumann
01-16-2006, 10:22 AM

Directed by Jim Jarmusch (2005)

Bill Murray turns emotional deadness into an art form in Jim Jarmusch's Broken Flowers, a film that carefully calculates idiosyncrasy and takes Bill Murray's sleepwalking persona one more step into caricature. The film follows Don Johnston's (note the subtle Don Juan allusion) quest through the American hinterland to discover which of four women from his past may be the mother of a nineteen-year old son he was informed about via an anonymous pink letter and who has set out to find him.

Engineered by his neighbor Winston (Jeffrey Wright), a working class black family incongruously living next door to a millionaire, Johnston (Murray) goes on a trip with the same lack of energy that he displays at home after his girlfriend Sherry (Julie Delpy) walks out on him. During the course of the film, we learn nothing of why Don is so apathetic, how the attractive women could have fallen for him in the first place, or what he hoped to accomplish by the search. While it is true that the first step in the journey of discovery is to acknowledge the mistakes you made in the past, Jarmusch paints Don's old flames as cardboard characters with little believability so that it is unclear what mistakes were made and by whom.

He meets and delivers a bunch of pink flowers to former lovers Laura (Sharon Stone), a widow with a sexy younger daughter named Lolita (wink, wink), (Alexis Dziena), a former hippie named Dora (Frances Conroy), now a bored middle class real estate agent, Carmen (Jessica Lange), a former lawyer turned animal communicator (a really clever New Age dig) with a provocative secretary (Chloe Sevigny), and finally Penny (Tilda Swanson), an angry woman living in a trailer park protected by bikers. He finally visits the grave of a fifth lover who died. Murray greets all of them with the same calculated inertia that becomes tiresome very quickly. Much time is spent by Jarmusch showing Don in his car, Don in airports, Don looking at maps, and Don just being Don.

The only hint of aliveness comes when he runs after a young boy (Mark Webber), thinking he may be his long lost son. When he catches up with him, he buys him a sandwich and the boy of course asks him if he has any philosophical tips (what else would a boy ask a total stranger?) and Murray suggests that he should forget the past, not worry about the future, and live for the moment. Maybe he will take his own advice, maybe not, but by that time, I was way past caring. As much as I admire many films of both Bill Murray and Jim Jarmusch, Broken Flowers is a gimmicky star vehicle that holds nothing genuine in its grasp.