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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on April 12, 2000. All rights reserved.

The Movies

E-mail: JackFlorek@princetoninfo.com

Early on in Jim Jarmusch’s latest film "Ghost Dog:

The Way of the Samurai," the hero, played by Forest Whitaker,

intones these words: "Every day, without fail, one should consider

oneself as dead." It is wise to imagine oneself being torn apart

by wild animals, he continues, or dropped from a great cliff, or slowly

giving in to fatal illness. His is not the sort of philosophy spouted

by your standard Hollywood hero.

But of course, Jim Jarmusch is not a standard Hollywood man, but a

highly original independent filmmaker. And this is a good reason to

see "Ghost Dog."

Jim Jarmusch is part of the American independent film movement that

began in the late 1950s and ’60s with the startlingly original work

of John Cassavetes. Through such works as "Faces" and "A

Woman Under the Influence," Cassavetes spawned a generation of

bold cinematic artists unwilling to knuckle under to the demands of

big Hollywood money. The films of Elaine May, Spike Lee, Barbara Loden,

and John Sayles are strong representatives of the power of film as

art.

"Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" is Jarmusch’s eighth film

and it is marked by his quirky originality. It is sinister comedy,

a dark amalgamation of rap and hip-hop music, 18th-century Eastern

philosophy, 1940s style gangster, and buckets of blood.

While the mixing of cultures is not something one runs across in Hollywood

offerings, for Jarmusch it is a standard fare and an important element

of his work. "To make a film about America," he told Rolling

Stone Magazine in a 1985 interview, "it seems logical to have

at least one perspective that’s transplanted here from some other

culture, because ours is a collection of transplanted influences."

In his 1984 film, "Stranger Than Paradise," Jarmusch gives

us a Hungarian girl in love with the music of Screaming Jay Hawkins.

In 1989’s "Mystery Train," a teenaged couple travels from

Japan to Memphis in search of the ghost of Elvis Presley. In his 1995

film, "Dead Man," we are presented with a kind of psychedelic

western.

Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker) is a professional hit-man who follows

a code of honor gleaned from his readings of "Hagakure, the Book

of Samurai," an 18th-century Japanese text. Ghost Dog considers

himself to be a Samurai warrior, the last of a dying breed. One of

the more astounding features of this film is that, while Ghost Dog

is a man of honor and loyalty, he earns his living as a virtuoso hit

man.

To someone used to seeing predictable Hollywood shoot-em-up-with-a-smile

movies, with safe, predictable characters fighting for safe predictable

gains, the edges of Jarmusch’s films can be missed. What seems like

carelessness or corniness on the filmmakers part is in fact aimed

right at the audience’s throat. A certain amount of openness and trust

is needed to view this movie properly.

So support your local independent filmmaker before they too, like

the samurai warrior and the traditional mob clan, become a dying breed.

— Jack Florek

Ghost Dog is showing at the AMC Hamilton Theaters.

NJ Film Festival

New Jersey Film Festival is presented by the Rutgers Film

Co-op/New Jersey Media Arts Center. Screenings are Fridays through

Sunday in Scott Hall, Room 123, College Avenue campus. Thursday screenings

are in Loree Hall, Room 024, Douglass College campus, near the corner

of Nichol Avenue and George Street. All programs begin at 7 p.m.;

admission $5 to $10. Call 732-932-8482.

Earth, Deepa Mehta’s trilogy about life and conflict in

post-colonial India. In Hindi, Urdu, Parsee, and Punjabi, with subtitles.

$5, Friday and Saturday, April 14 and 15.

All About My Mother, Pedro Almodovar’s prizewinner (this

year’s Oscar, preceded by Cannes and the Golden Globe), set in Madrid

and Barcelona, about a woman who loses her only son and sets out on

a quest to find his wayward father. Subtitles; $5, Friday through

Sunday, April 21 to 23.

Japanese New Wave

Japanese New Wave Cinema, presented by Princeton University’s

East Asian Studies Program. Screenings Mondays at 7 p.m. in the James

Stewart Film Theater, 185 Nassau Street. Free. 609-258-5722.

Farewell, Ark, Terayama Shuji’s final film, set against

a barrage of surreal dreamscapes, about two cousins living together

in mutual desire, Monday, April 17.

Second Chance Cinema

Second Chance Cinema, presented by Princeton Adult School.

Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. at Kresge Auditorium, Princeton University.

$5. 609-683-1101.

Besieged, Bernardo Bertolucci returns, with David Thewlis

and Thandie Norton as two lonely exiles trying to make connections

through an emotional force field, Wednesday, April 12.

Dreamlife of Angels, Elodie Bouchez and Natacha Regnier

shared Cannes’ Best Actress award as two young women knocking about

Lille in search of work and human connection. Erick Zonka directs,

Wednesday, April 19.

Top Of Page
Mainstream Movies

Confirm titles with theaters.

All About My Mother, Pedro Almodovar’s prizewinner (this

year’s Oscar, preceded by Cannes and the Golden Globe), set in Madrid

and Barcelona, about a woman who loses her only son and sets out on

a quest to find his wayward father. Regal.

American Beauty. Annette Bening and Oscar-winner Kevin

Spacey star in Sam Mendes’ dark comedy about dysfunctional suburban

families. Winner of five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. AMC,

Loews, Mercer, Montgomery, Regal.

Black and White. Brooke Shields, Mike Tyson, Robert Downey

Junior, Claudia Schiffer, and Ben Stiller all appear in this film

about how privileged white kids explore hip-hop culture. AMC,

Destinta, Loews, Marketfair, Regal.

Boiler Room. Ben Affleck plays a hot young stock trader

at a firm where the cost of success is high. Written and directed

by Ben Younger. Mercer.

Boys Don’t Cry. Hilary Swank won an Oscar for Best Actress

for her gender-bending performance in the true story of a girl named

Teena posing as a boy named Brandon. Directed by Kimberly Pierce.

AMC, Loews, Mercer.

The Cider House Rules. Michael Caine won the Oscar for

best supporting actor in his role as the doctor in the screen version

of John Irving’s bestseller. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, it won Irving

the Oscar for Best Screenplay Adaptation. AMC, MarketFair,

Montgomery, Regal.

Erin Brockovich. Julia Roberts plays a real-life crusader

bent on revealing both her cleavage and the polluting sins of a California

power company. AMC, Destinta, Garden, Loews, Mercer, Montgomery,

Regal.

Final Destination. Sci-fi mystery about a high school

air crash survivor in peril. AMC, Destinta, Loews, MarketFair,

Regal.

Ghost Dog. Jim Jarmusch’s latest features Forest Whitaker

as a focused, futuristic hit man. AMC.

Here On Earth. Two rich kids fall for a small-town girl,

who teaches them a lesson about living. AMC, Loews, Marketfair.

High Fidelity. John Cusack plays the owner of a retro

record store whose business is failing. AMC, Loews, Marketfair,

Regal.

Keeping the Faith. Edward Norton directs and stars in

this romantic comedy with Ben Stiller and Jen Elfman. AMC, Regal.

Mission to Mars. Gary Sinise and Tim Robbins are sent

to discover what destroyed the first Mars landers. AMC, Loews,

Mercer, Regal.

My Dog Skip. Frankie Muniz of `Malcolm in the Middle’

stars in a film version of Willie Morris’ book about a lonely young

boy who finds friendship in a Jack Russell terrier. Mercer, Regal.

The Price of Glory. Jimmy Smits plays a father trying

to build his sons into champion boxers. AMC, Loews.

Ready to Rumble. Two dead-beat wrestling buddies get a

shot at their dream of meeting their wrestling idol. AMC, Destinta,

Loews, Mercer, Regal.

Return to Me. Romantic comedy starring David Duchovny

(X-Files) and Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting). AMC, Loews, Marketfair,

Montgomery, Regal.

The Road to El Dorado. Dreamworks’ animated feature about

two men who stumble upon the legendary city of gold, with music by

Elton John. AMC, Destinta, Loews, Marketfair, Montgomery, Regal.

Romeo Must Die. Asian and African-American gangs in Oakland.

AMC, Destinta, Loews, Marketfair, Regal.

Rules of Engagement. A war hero (Samuel L. Jackson) stands

trial for war crimes and finds an advocate in Tommy Lee Jones. AMC,

Destinta, Garden, Loews, Marketfair, Montgomery, Regal.

Skulls. Based on a true story about a young Ivy League

man drawn into a secret society reminiscent of Yale’s. AMC, Destinta,

Loews, Marketfair, Regal.

Titus. Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange star in this

adaptation of Shakespeare’s "Titus Andronicus," a ruler who

descends into madness. Mercer.

Whatever It Takes. Shane West stars in a film about romantic

confusion caused by E-mail. AMC, Loews, Mercer.

Wonder Boys. Suffering from writer’s block and a bad marriage,

Michael Douglas tries to grow up. AMC.

Top Of Page
Venues

AMC Hamilton, 325 Sloan Avenue, I-295 Exit 65A, 609-890-8307.

24-screen, stadium-seating multiplex. $7; $5 matinees; $5 twilight.

Destinta, Independence Plaza, 2465 South Broad Street,

Hamilton, 609-888-4500. Stadium-seating 12-screen multiplex. $6.75

adults; $5 matinees.

East Windsor Cinemas, Routes 130 and 571, 609-443-9295.

$3 adults; $2.50 matinees.

Garden Theater, 160 Nassau Street, 609-683-7595. $6.50

adults; $4 matinees.

Loews Theaters, Route 1 South, New Brunswick, 732-846-9200.

Stadium-seating multiplex. $8.50 adults; $5.25 matinees.

MarketFair-UA, Route 1 South, 609-520-8700. $7.50

adults; $4.75 matinees.

Mercer Mall General Cinemas, Route 1, 609-452-2868.

$7.25 adults; $4.75 matinees.

Montgomery Center Theater, Routes 206 and 518,

609-924-7444. $7 adults; $4.25 matinees.

Regal Cinemas Town Center Plaza, 319 Route 130 North,

East Windsor, 609-371-8473. Stadium-seating, 15 screens. $8 adults;

$5 matinees.


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