Thursday, January 4, 2007


Bill Murray, Julie Delpy, Jeffrey Wright, Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, Frances Conroy, Tilda Swinton

"Sometimes life brings some strange surprises"


Don Johnston

I have this crazy tendency to read about all about those indie flicks which make the rounds of the film festivals circuits on various websites. I start obsessing over them till I realized most of them won't make it to this part of the world. Upon checking the list of films on HBO for December, I immediately recognized "Broken Flowers" as one of the entries shown at the Cannes Film Festival circa 2005.
As fate would have it, the first time (December 30) it was shown, I was at a mall splurging like crazy at their year end sales. So I made sure I was in front of the telly at 12:30 AM (Jan. 4, Thursday) to watch this Jim Jarmusch reflective tale unfold complete with microwave popcorn for my midnight snack. Not that this film is a popcorn flick, no sirree, it definitely isn't!

It is a slow paced road trip movie. A journey into a man's past to make sense of his current existence. Don Johnston (with a T unlike the Miami Vice star) reluctantly embarks on a journey to find out which of his 4 former girlfriends is the mother of his alleged 19 year old son. A fact he recently finds out when he receives an unsigned letter written on a pink stationery enclosed in a pink envelope. There is no exact postal origin nor a return address.

Don Johnston is a man of few words and fewer expressions. He lives a reclusive existence after his current flame dumped him. He has the uncunning reputation of being a Lothario. A made (rich)bachelor who was into computers and mops around wearing expensive track suits. His only social connection is with his next door neighbor named Winston. A happily married African American of Ethiopian heritage with 3 jobs and 5 children. Winston is also an amateur sleuth enthusiast and he is the one who prods Don to embark on the journey. He researched everything through the Internet, traced the locations and exact addresses of the women. Then he documents an elaborate itinerary by booking air tickets, motel rooms and rental cars. He also encloses maps along with Ethiopian inspired music he burned on a CD for the road trip.

Each encounter with the women are characterized by their distinct attitude of welcoming Don into their house when he appears out of the blue, out of nowhere. Strangely, we are not shown the names of any towns/cities where the women live nor the distance between each trip. Don also doesn't directly ask them if they are the sender of the mysterious letter. He was told by Winston to subtly observe any traces of 'pink' items. It is at this point in the movie where as a viewer you tend to focus your eyes on anything pink to provide some clues to the 'culprit'. Notably the director somehow managed to eclipse all the other hues in the scenes that it felt like you were watching some 3D flick where the color pink would flash right in front of your eyes. Maybe it was just my subconscious mind telling my brain to visualize more on the chosen color.

A minimalist approach, some long lingering shots of scenery, the deadpan expressionless facade of Bill Murray (a technique he seems to have mastered effortlessly), a good performance from Jeffrey Wright complete with an African accent - as well as the different women in Don Johnston's colorful past portrayed by actresses of varying range (Jessica Lange, Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy and Tilda Swinton) all contribute to one contemplative existential movie. Factor in a good soundtrack of soothing music with an African beat but at the end of the movie you find yourself standing in the middle of the road with Bill Murray who has a blank stare pasted on his face wondering "Does this make any sense, at all?" If you want the answer to that question, I suggest you watch this movie but be warned despite its simplistic tone of telling the story of a man's self discovery, there are enough issues left unresolved which leaves you pondering long after you have switched the TV off.

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