Hunter and Hunted

Depp and Glover rage against Machine

Neil Young was bound to score a Western at some point. But it couldn't just be any Western—it had to be a weird one. In 1995, Jim Jarmusch wrote and directed the gritty, violent, black-and-white acid Western Dead Man banking on the hope that Young would agree to write the music. As in many other films in the genre, Jarmusch's West is a mythic place of lawlessness, where there are only two kinds of people: hunter and hunted. William Blake (Johnny Depp), an accountant from Cleveland, takes a job offer in a town called Machine. As the train moves west, he periodically looks out the window; each time, the landscape gets a little more bleak and the passengers uglier. Crispin Glover comes along (of course) and asks Depp why he's come "all the way out here to hell." Arriving in Machine, Depp gets tangled up in a murder, gets shot in the chest, and becomes a hunted outlaw. In the woods, wounded, he's found by an American Indian named "Nobody" (Gary Farmer) who swears Depp is a different William Blake, the 18th-century painter and poet. Together they ride through the twisted Southwest landscape. These stark black-and-white scenes are hazy, loping, and rhythmic, which is where Young's improvised score works best: The mix of ragged, electric riffs and whining feedback evokes boot heels, barbed wire, moaning wind, and the ring of gunfire throughout a massive expanse of Western emptiness, all on a headful of chemicals. The film also stars Robert Mitchum in his final role. Metro, 5400 Ninth Ave., N.E., 781-5755. $6.75-$9.50. 6:45 & 9:15 p.m. BRIAN J. BARR

 
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