Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Pink is the thread

A review of Broken Flowers

2003’s Lost in Translation captivated critics and reviewers alike with its paced soul-searching while many others -can you blame them- found it dull and directionless. Even though Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers is almost as sluggish, at least to great degree it shuns the emotional snobbery of Lost in Translation. The comparison between the two films is nonetheless inevitable, not least for Bill Murray starring again as a similarly detached, phlegmatic and introverted middle-aged character.

Don Johnston (Murray) is a wealthy, solitary man. Right when his own sentimental choices seem to confine him to perpetual bachelorism, he receives a shock in the form of an anonymous pink letter: for the past 15 years he’s been the oblivious father of a child. With help from his eccentric neighbour Winston (Jeffrey Wright), a detective-story fan, all Don can do is to draw up a clumsy list of ex-girlfriends and follow the pink thread.

Besides a cameo from a rejuvenated Sharon Stone, the search is bound to open more than a can of worms, including ex-girlfriends who make a resolute point of confining the old casanova back to a buried past. The way each character is disclosed a little at a time is possibly one of the best charms of this gentle film, as it is left to the audience to find what may have once been the unlikely bond between Murray and each of his exes. How love can be so passionate and then implode in a forgotten dust of distant grudges is one of life's bitterest ironies.

But it’s the final scrambles that are soaked with meaning. You can almost feel Don's pain and loneliness when the past displays all its elusiveness. The obvious truth is spelt out in all its poignancy: time is merciless, the past has gone and given that no-one’s ever gonna grasp the future, all that’s left is the void of the present.

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