Iggy Pop

Hardware (1990, Richard Stanley)

Hardware looks a lot like an A-ha music video… but not in a bad way. Richard Stanley is a decent enough director.

The plot’s pretty simple, beneath all the sci-fi decorations. It’s the end of a slasher movie, when the hero or heroine has to fight the villain all by him or herself. There’s no actual narrative to Hardware, except in terms of being a narrative mess.

Maybe if Stanley could write well, not having a narrative wouldn’t matter. But he doesn’t write well at all.

Much of the present action is real time, which makes it hard for the film to get a sturdy footing. Like I said before, it’s a slasher movie. Sure, it’s post-apocalyptic, full of Biblical references, but it’s just a slasher movie.

There’s a lot of good acting in it.

John Lynch is really good. William Hootkins has the biggest role I’ve ever seen him in (as a grotesque peeping tom), he’s pretty good. Dylan McDermott can’t surmount the inherent weakness to his character, but he’s still okay.

I thought it was Nancy Travis in Hardware, but it’s Stacey Travis. She’s okay, but it’s hard not to watch it thinking Nancy Travis would have done a better job.

Technically, it’s a jumble. Simon Boswell’s music is bad. But there’s some cool stop motion to make up for it. Stanley does compose a few nice sci-fi shots.

It’s a lot of work to figure out Hardware and it’s not worth the effort.



Directed by Richard Stanley; screenplay by Stanley and Michael Fallon, based on a comic by Steve MacManus and Kevin O’Neill; director of photography, Steven Chivers; edited by Derek Trigg; music by Simon Boswell; production designer, Joseph Bennett; produced by JoAnne Sellar and Paul Trijbits; released by Palace Pictures.

Starring Dylan McDermott (Moses Baxter), Stacey Travis (Jill), John Lynch (Shades), William Hootkins (Lincoln Wineberg Jr.), Iggy Pop (Angry Bob), Carl McCoy (Nomad), Mark Northover (Alvy), Paul McKenzie (Vernon) and Lemmy (Taxi Driver).

Dead Man (1995, Jim Jarmusch)

Dead Man is not a strange film. I haven’t seen it in ten years and I’ve probably seen the majority of the Westerns I’ve seen in that interim. So the opening, as Johnny Depp watches the familiar Western trappings pass from a train window, probably didn’t resonate on my last viewing. What Jarmusch doesn’t get enough credit for–though I really don’t know, it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten to have a conversation with someone about Jarmusch–is his dialogue. IMDb doesn’t list it as such, but Dead Man is great comedy. It’s one of the funnier films I’ve seen lately. Besides Gary Farmer, who maintains funniness throughout the film (even when he and Depp’s relationship gets poignant), Jarmusch has his two trios. In the first, there’s Lance Henriksen, Michael Wincott and Eugene Byrd. Dead Man might feature Wincott’s finest performance; he’s phenomenal as a motormouthed assassin. Byrd plays the straight man, with Henriksen the unknowing butt of the jokes. This interplay lasts the majority of the film, until Henriksen becomes the knowing butt of Wincott’s joke. The second trio–Billy Bob Thornton, Iggy Pop and Jared Harris–only have a scene, but it’s an amazing one. Thornton’s gift for delivery is clear here, but it’s Pop who steals the show (it isn’t hard, since he’s the only one wearing a bonnet).

The humor–down to Robert Mitchum’s cameo–is all relatively straightforward, presented in dialogue and visuals. Even Farmer’s funniest scenes are because of his dialogue. Meanwhile, Johnny Depp’s trip through Dead Man is tonal. It’s Robby Müller shooting black and white like a Frenchman from the 1930s, the film clearly filmed on location, but still infused with a hyper-reality. The skies are too dark or too bright to be real. Neil Young’s score sometimes becomes the focal point, as it’s the only clue into what Depp’s experiencing. Depp’s character is a genre standard, a quiet man forced into violence by circumstance. Jarmusch’s added ingredients–Depp’s death is inevitable from the start (due to a bullet near the heart) and Farmer as a Native American guide–really aren’t unprecedented. Where Dead Man‘s different is in the presentation of the story.

There’s also the politics of Dead Man–the Western is probably the most political genre. From the opening slaughter of buffalo to the smallpox-infected blankets at the end (even if blankets couldn’t carry the virus), Jarmusch indicts Manifest Destiny with Dead Man. But he escapes propaganda by wowing with the beauty of the untouched American landscape. Discovering the beauty of the natural world is part of Depp’s trip in the film. The viewer’s too.

Jarmusch–through Farmer–neatly sends the viewer home at the end of Dead Man after privileging him or her to particular journey. Back when Dead Man came out, I remember a friend of mine always wanted to know what color Depp’s suit really was, figuring Jarmusch had to make him wear something wacky (and Mitchum’s line about the clown suit really does encourage speculation). I really want to know what, in the dramatic vehicle, Gabriel Byrne brought for Mili Avital. I hope it was silk.



Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch; director of photography, Robby Müller; edited by Jay Rabinowitz; music by Neil Young; production designer, Bob Ziembicki; produced by Demetra J. MacBride; released by Miramax Films.

Starring Johnny Depp (William Blake), Gary Farmer (Nobody), Crispin Glover (Train Fireman), Lance Henriksen (Cole Wilson), Michael Wincott (Conway Twill), Eugene Byrd (Johnny ‘The Kid’ Pickett), John Hurt (John Scholfield), Robert Mitchum (John Dickinson), Iggy Pop (Salvatore ‘Sally’ Jenko), Gabriel Byrne (Charlie Dickinson), Jared Harris (Benmont Tench), Mili Avital (Thel Russell) and Billy Bob Thornton (Big George Drakoulious).

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