The Dead Don't Die, Jim Jarmusch

by Luca Celada May 16, 2019
A scene from "The Dead Don't Die", 2019

cannes film festival

You could call The Dead Don’t Die a neo-noir small town zombie comedy. The apocalypse here hits the small upstate hamlet of Centerville, an actually slightly off-center Mayberry style all-American town, inhabited by zany characters: a movie buff convenience store clerk, amiably gruff diner waitresses, a resident mumbling racist (Steve Buscemi), the motel owner and two somewhat hapless sheriff deputies (Chloë Sevigny and Adam Driver) led by nonplussed sheriff Bill Murray. Then there are visitors, traveling  hipsters presumed by locals to be from big-city Cleveland and a peculiar mortician (Tilda Swinton) who promises to be even more alien than her Scottish accent (and killer samurai skills) would suggest – and, oh yeah, the resident hobo (Tom Waits), eccentric even by local standards,  who has been living  in the woods for years.

As things take an inevitable turn for the worse, zombie tropes (which surely have now finally been treated in every conceivable tone and medium) are taken for a ride in the director’s signature deadpan style. Behind the minimalism, of course, lurks considerable irony which hints at an apt metaphor (zombies have been since the start) of prevailing mindlessness in our midst, especially since many of the ghouls appear to gravitate towards fixations their former selves once had (the undead grasping cell phones looking for wi-fi signal give new meaning to the concept of “dead zone”).

Jarmusch is a multiple repeat customer on the Croisette, having been at the festival with several seminal movies including (Camera d’Or winner) Stranger Than Paradise (1984), Dead Man (1995) and Broken Flowers (Jury Grand Prix in 2005). It is fitting therefore that he would be given the opening slot at this 72nd edition and that the opening night crowd gave him and his cast (Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Adam Driver, Chloé Sevigny, Selena Gomez were present) a tribute of warm applause both before and after the showing.