Sweetgrass is an extraordinary non-narrative documentary about sheep herders in Montana rustling their sheep across country for 3 months through wild grazing fields. Most scenes are static mountainous vistas, single-shot scenes as if they’re were directed by Jim Jarmusch, long quiet shots that allow the viewer to observe everything in the frame. Several ultra slow zoom shots are breathtaking. There is no voice-over narration, very little information given. You just have to sit there and watch it and take it all in. The sound of the sheep can grind on the nerves, but that’s my only complaint. A beautifully shot, unique documentary, maybe not perfect, but one worth keeping an eye out for.
Anything directed by Jim Jarmusch is worth watching, even though his movies don’t always do much for me (Dead Man and Coffee and Cigarettes). His camera quietly observes people in an unobtrusive way that brings out the subtleties of character and has us feeling for them because they’re just so unremarkable. Broken Flowers, a road trip movie about a guy (Bill Murray) looking for a woman who leaves an unsigned letter in his mailbox informing him that he has a son, is Jarmusch’s most conventional movie to date, and as good as anything he’s done. It’s one of my favourite movies from 2005.
Bill Murray’s low-key acting style is perfect for a character bored enough with his life that he’ll drive across the country visiting old girlfriends. He doesn’t tell them directly why he’s come to see them. His approach is, “By the way, you don’t have any children, do you?” Each of his old girlfriends has a distinctive history, some of them sad, some of them scarred, some of them bizarre — all of them potential mothers of a son he’s never met. It’s a quietly dramatic movie with enough funny moments to keep it entertaining. And Jeffrey Wright as Winston is the best (the guy in the trailer who says, “Congratulations, you’re a father!”). The soundtrack is excellent too. I’ve watched Broken Flowers on DVD a few times now. It works well on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Everyone loves a list – even film directors. But what do their Top 10s say about their personalities? John Walker decides that Quentin Tarantino lacks a sense of humour, whereas Terry Jones goes to the cinema to cheer himself up.
I recognize only one of the movies in Jim Jarmusch’s list: