Night On Earth

USA/Italy/France/Finland (1992)
Dir: Jim Jarmusch
Cast: Winona Ryder, Matti Pellonpaa, Beatrice Dalle, Roberto Benigni, Gena Rowlands, Issach de Bankole, Paolo Bonacelli, Giancarlo Eposito

Jarmusch's experimental exploration of the bizarre encounters of five taxi drivers during a single night of cab-driving in Los Angeles, New York, Rome, Paris and Helsinki. Sometimes eccentric, funny, gross and somewhat melancholy at the end, this strikes me as a rather inconsequential study of human nature.

Rating: 6.5

Not One Less

China (1999)
dir: Zhang Yimou

Cast: Wei Minzhi, Zhang Huike, Tian Zhenda

Another of Zhang's forays into rural China for his cinema verite stories with actors who play themselves. This plot is simple and is supposed to highlight the problem of rural education in China. Teacher Gao has to go away for a few weeks and hires a gauche, ill-equipped 13-year old to stand in his shoes and teach his class. It quickly becomes obvious that young Minzhi is not up to the task, having just left school herself. She is bereft of any ideas on how to control her class and displays a touching childishness while taking up adult responsibilities prematurely; this is an area where the film succeeds - eventually, she resorts to locking the children in the classroom and making them copy notes on the blackboard.

Zhang excels at cinematography again here; the tattered village is lovingly portrayed and contrasted with the chaos of Chinese city life where young teacher Minzhi finds herself when an errant student "runs away" to find a job. Whilst exuding a certain naive charm while the story centred in the village, it quickly spiralled into the depths of sentimentality when Minzhi goes on this ultimately heart-rending search, which was initiated out of a less-than-admirable desire for financial reward rather than any hackneyed idealism.

Rating: 5.5

Copyright ArtemisWorks 2002