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Sunday, 08 May 2011 00:00

A Provocative Time Awaits in "Night on Earth"

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Written by Diane Carson
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The St. Louis Psychoanalytic Institute's Celluloid Couch series at Webster University continues May 12th with writer/director Jim Jarmusch's Night on Earth with analysis provided after the screening by Dr. Bernard Feinberg. Within Night on Earth a treasure trove of personalities and issues exists, dramatized in a series of encounters by five taxi drivers in five different cities on one night.

Locations are: Paris, Rome, Helsinki, Los Angeles, and New York. It's the middle of a winter night and cab drivers pick up their fares with varying degrees of enthusiasm. The snippets of their lives that they share range from heartbreaking to curious, darkly comic to surreal. While Tom Waits' music helps, the segues from one location and story to another aren't always smooth, but then it seems to me this captures life in the city on what could be a typical day as individuals ricochet from one conversation to another. I liked that slightly jarring aspect of Night on Earth, heightened by personality and culture clashes that occur. 

The taxi drivers and passengers constitute an international who's who of great young and veteran actors. They include: Gena Rowlands, Winona Ryder, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Isaach De Bankolé, Roberto Benigni, Giancarlo Esposito, Rosie Perez, and more.

In Night on Earth, as in real life, individuals in their brief encounters, implicitly and sometimes explicitly reveal a lot of their hopes, dreams, fears, and problems. And so Jarmusch lets these men and women connect or clash, reveal tragic or humorous facets. Also realistically, the interaction is not always dramatic; there's not necessarily a payoff, just an encounter, the kind of exchange people in today's world, especially cities, have. And yet because these moments are held for inspection, Jarmusch reveals a wealth of emotional and psychological details. We're the observers; we must provide the insight.

In French, German, Spanish, Finnish, and Italian with English subtitles and also in English. Night on Earth screens at Webster University's Winifred Moore auditorium on Thursday, May 12th at 7:30 p.m. with analysis immediately after the film by Dr. Bernard Feinberg. For more information and the current schedule, you may call 314-968-7487 or you may go to the web at: www.Webster.edu/film series.

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