Night on Earth (1991)

Thirty years ago today, the film Night on Earth premiered. I love Jim Jarmusch films, they have a great feel and a liveliness to them. This film has a star-studded cast that makes it even more desirable. You have to watch this.

Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Produced by: Jim Jarmusch, Jim Stark
Written by: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Winona Ryder, Gena Rowlands, Giancarlo Esposito, Armin Mueller-Stahl, Rosie Perez, Isaach de Bankolé, Béatrice Dalle, Roberto Benigni, Paolo Bonacelli, Matti Pellonpää, Kari Väänänen, Sakari Kuosmanen, Tomi Salmela
Music by: Tom Waits
Cinematography: Frederick Elmes
Edited by: Jay Rabinowitz
Production company: JVC Entertainment, Victor Music Industries, Le Studio Canal +, Film4, Pandora Film
Distributed by: Fine Line Features, Pandora Cinema
Release date: December 12, 1991
Running time: 129 minutes
Box office: $2 million

Los Angeles
As evening falls, tomboy cabby Corky (Winona Ryder) picks up Hollywood executive Victoria Snelling (Gena Rowlands) from the airport, and as Corky drives, Victoria tries to conduct business on her phone. Despite their extreme differences socially, the two develop a certain connection. When Victoria suggests that cab driving is not much a career, Corky counters that her dream in fact is to become a mechanic. During the ride Victoria, who is evidently a talent scout, comes to realise that Corky would be ideal for a part in a movie she is casting, but Corky rejects the offer because she intends to be a mechanic. The taxi is a 1985 Chevrolet Caprice Classic Wagon.

New York
Helmut (Armin Mueller-Stahl), an immigrant from East Germany who was a clown in his home country, has found work as a taxi driver. After dark, he picks up a passenger named YoYo (Giancarlo Esposito), a streetwise young man who wants to go to Brooklyn. Increasingly alarmed at Helmut’s inability to handle automatic transmission, ignorance of New York geography and feeble command of the English language, YoYo takes over the wheel. During the drive, YoYo sees his sister-in-law Angela (Rosie Perez) on the street and forces her into the cab to take her back home. Helmut is clearly amused by the vituperation between the two. After Angela and Yoyo depart, Helmut struggles to drive back to Manhattan, muttering “New York…New York.” The taxi is a 1983 Ford LTD Crown Victoria.

At night, a cab picks up two drunk African diplomats, who mock the lowly driver (Isaach De Bankolé) and find it hilarious that he is from the Ivory Coast. In French, when he says he is ivoirien, they say il voit rien (he can’t see a thing). Sick of their insults, he throws them out without making them pay. Next he picks up an attractive young woman (Béatrice Dalle), who is blind. As she cannot see the colour of his skin, he asks her where she thinks he is from. After a moment’s thought, she says the Ivory Coast. Prickly and sexually provocative, she rejects most of his efforts to be friendly, regarding him as beneath her, but he is genuinely fascinated by her and her predicament. So much so that, after dropping her off, he watches her walk beside a canal in the dark and drives into another car, whose driver angrily accuses him of being blind. The taxi is a 1980 Peugeot 504.

In the early morning hours, an eccentric cabbie (Roberto Benigni) picks up a priest (Paolo Bonacelli). As he drives, he starts to confess his sins. Much to the priest’s discomfort, he goes into great detail about how he discovered his sexuality, first with a pumpkin and then with a sheep, then details a love affair he had with his brother’s wife, miming the actions and mouthing the cries. Already ailing, overwhelmed by the barrage of unwanted information, the priest has a fatal heart attack. Unable to revive him, the cabbie leaves him on a bench to be found once it is light. The taxi is a 1976 Fiat 128.

After an evening spent drinking heavily, three workers (Kari Väänänen, Sakari Kuosmanen, and Tomi Salmela), one of whom has just been fired from his job and has passed out, climb into a cab to return home. On the way, the two conscious workers talk about the terrible situation their unconscious friend is in, being out of work and having to face a divorce and a pregnant daughter. The driver, Mika (Matti Pellonpää), then tells them all the saddest story they have ever heard. The workers are terribly moved and depressed by the story, and even become unsympathetic toward their drunken, laid-off companion. Leaving him in the cab, they stagger off to their homes. Mika wakes him, takes payment and leaves. Worker sits on the ground, passing neighbours greet him and he replies back. The taxi is a 1973 Volvo 144.

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