Jarmusch is a true visionary; he knows his films can't bring order to the ravishing chaos around him, but he can't resist the fun of trying. In this compassionate comedy of missed connections, he makes us see the ordinary in fresh and pertinent ways. But the flickers of humanity in those taxis are soon dulled by barriers of time, sex, race, language and money. They are flickers in a vast emotional void.
As ever with Jarmusch, as the five sequential stories proceed toward their unexpectedly poignant conclusion, there's a touch of the experimental at play; but it's also a film of great warmth. Character prevails throughout, and with the exception of a miscast Ryder, the performances are terrific. Though it may take a while to get Jarmusch's gist, hang in there; by the time Tom Waits growls his lovely closing waltz over the credits, Jarmusch has shown us moments most film-makers don't even notice.
Some of the segments are more successful than others, yet all of them have the haunting quality of a completely insignificant event that someone might remember years later. Night on Earth tries to stop the clock and cast a net over the whole mystery, and while the film never loses its humor, the wistfulness, yearning and deep affection at its heart is are unmistakable. [29 May 1992, p.D1]
An easy to take followup to his previous pic Mystery Train. Beginning with an outer-space shot gradually zeroing in on planet Earth, the director covers in five separate segments his favorite theme of lonely people interacting but ultimately facing the great void alone.
Although his (Jarmusch) films have moments of sly obliqueness, they leave us feeling stranded in underdevelopment. This is the case with Night on Earth, which is launched on a promising conceit - nocturnal taxi rides in five cities around the world during the same time slot. By the time the film ends, we can't help wondering just who has been taken for a ride. [15 May 1992, p.85]
Even in his poorest work (i.e., this movie), director Jarmusch retains an appealing sense of experimentation. He fills his movies with those clumsy, unhurried moments between people. But in Night on Earth, with five vignettes to get through, he's forced to create faster, more sketchlike pieces. He's just not up to the task. Nor do performers Winona Ryder, Isaach De Bankole, Roberto Benigni and others pick up the improvisational ball.
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