Home Movies by Decade Movies - 1990s Night on Earth (1991)

Night on Earth (1991)

Independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch takes us halfway around the globe in five taxicabs as day slips into night and dawn pushes away the darkness. The individual tales have little in common, apart from the use of cabs.

The Rome adventure builds in outrageousness as a madcap taxi driver (Roberto Benigni) picks up a priest with a heart condition (Paolo Bonacelli) and babbles the cleric to death.

The Helsinki chapter that follows introduces notes of deepening tragedy as a driver (Matti Pellonpää) hauls three drunks (Kari Väänänen, Sakari Kuosmanen and Tomi Salmela) through the city in the early morning.

The Los Angeles segment that opens the film juxtaposes two stars – Winona Ryder (as a tough, grease-smeared cabbie who dreams of being a mechanic not a movie star) and Gena Rowlands (as a casting agent) – in an ironic tale of a rebel with a cause and a Hollywood type.

The New York sequence, full of good fellowship and energy, offers faces familiar to moviegoers, belonging to Giancarlo Esposito (as a hip dude), Rosie Perez (as a sqawky sexpot) and Armin Mueller-Stahl (as the former circus clown from East Germany who transports the others into the depths of Brooklyn).

The ride through Paris, dark and romantic, brings new faces – Isaach De Bankolé as an emigre driver from the Ivory Coast who engages in a curious colloquy with a sightless self-sufficient passenger (Béatrice Dalle) – as does the Helsinki episode, where a quartet of Finns shift Night on Earth from boozy comedy to the sobering, sombre light of day.

Using a row of clocks and maps, Jarmusch flies us from West to East between dusk and dawn as whimsy at twilight gives way to tragedy in the dark night of the soul. The movie feels real because Jarmusch insisted on filming real taxicabs, towed through the night.

Perhaps the most memorable element of this always changing, funny, penetrating, zany and sad film is its score, a moody, sometimes funky, sometimes cool progression of tunes and themes by strangle-throated Tom Waits.

Victoria Snelling (Los Angeles)
Gena Rowlands
Corky (Los Angeles)
Winona Ryder
Rock Manager (Los Angeles)
Lisanne Falk
Rock Musician #1 (Los Angeles)
Alan Randolph Scott
Rock Musician #2 (Los Angeles)
Anthony Portillo
Helmut (New York)
Armin Mueller-Stahl
YoYo (New York)
Giancarlo Esposito
Angela (New York) 
Rosie Perez
Cab Driver #1 (New York)
Richard Boes
Driver (Paris)
Isaach De Bankolé
Blind Woman (Paris)
Béatrice Dalle
Passenger #1 (Paris)
Pascal N’Zonzi
Passenger #2 (Paris)
Emile Abossolo M’bo
Man in Accident (Paris)
Stéphane Boucher
Man on Motorcycle (Paris)
Noel Kaufmann
Driver (Rome)
Roberto Benigni
Priest (Rome)
Paolo Bonacelli
Transvestite #1 (Rome)
Gianni Schettino
Transvestite #2 (Rome)
Antonio Ragusa
Lovers (Rome)
Nicola Facondo
Camilla Begnoni
Angry Driver (Rome)
Romolo Di Biasi
Dispatcher (Rome)
Donatella Servadio (voice)
Mika (Helsinki)
Matti Pellonpää
Man #1 (Helsinki)
Kari Väänänen
Man #2 (Helsinki)
Sakari Kuosmanen
Man #3 (Helsinki)
Tomi Salmela
Dispatcher (Helsinki)
Eija Vilpas (voice)
Factory Worker #1 (Helsinki)
Jaakko Talaskivi
Factory Worker #2 (Helsinki)
Klaus Heydemann

Jim Jarmusch