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Second Time Around 

Wednesday, Jan 1 1997
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Dead Man
Ever since the splendid one-two punch of Stranger Than Paradise and Down by Law, director Jim Jarmusch has been looking more and more like a two-hit wonder, making his own weak and witless movies and occasional, admittedly charming, appearances in films like Blue in the Face and Tigrero. Then along comes Dead Man, Jarmusch's best movie by far and a giant leap out of his rut. Down by Law was enlivened by the amazing Roberto Begnini; similarly, Dead Man is powered by the magnetic presence of Gary Farmer as Nobody, a huge, shaggy, sublimely serene Native American who rescues Johnny Depp's feckless William Blake and guides him on a transcendental journey from the ragged western brink of civilization to the edge of the world and beyond. Farmer, a Canadian actor, has created the most irresistible character in the movies this year. (He's even better in the utterly unseen but wonderful 1989 film Powwow Highway.) The black-and-white Dead Man, shot by Robby MYller (awarded best cinematographer this year from the National Society of Film Critics for his work on this and Breaking the Waves), has the silvery, opalescent shimmer of nitrate, a film stock made obsolete in the late '40s by its explosive flammability. Indeed, Dead Man looks and feels as if it could burst into flames, struck by the spirit of visionary poet William Blake himself.

-- Tod Booth

Dead Man screens Friday and Saturday, Jan. 3 and 4, at the Red Vic, 1727 Haight (at Clayton). Shows are Friday at 7 and 9:25 p.m. and Saturday at 2, 4:25, 7, and 9:25 p.m. Tickets are $6; call 668-3994.

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Tod Booth

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