• James Rutherford

‘Night on Earth’: An Anthology of Five Eventful Taxi Rides Around the World on One Memorable Evening


Movie poster for the film Night on Earth starring Winona Ryder, Giancarlo Esposito and Armin Mueller-Stahl

“Night on Earth” (1991) is a unique and lively anthology of five individual stories, each portraying a taxi driver engaging a memorable fare in a different city around the globe—all on one singular evening. The theme across all five concurrent tales is one of chance encounter and meaningful yet fleeting accord between driver and passenger.


Opening in Los Angeles, young female cabby Corky (Winona Ryder) picks up a veteran Hollywood casting director named Victoria (Gena Rowlands), with Snelling charmed by Corky's spunky candor. Progressing to New York, a German cab driver named Helmut (Armin Mueller-Stahl) encounters street-savvy YoYo (Giancarlo Esposito), who is humorously forced to take the wheel of Helmut's taxi. In Paris, an Ivorean driver (Isaach de Bankolé) encounters abject racism before engaging a winsome young blind woman (Béatrice Dalle) who resoundingly bewitches him. Shifting to Rome, an eccentric cabbie (Roberto Benigni) picks up a Catholic priest (Paolo Bonacelli) to whom he proceeds to divulge a multitude of carnal sins. Ending in Helsinki, the final tale involves three blue collar Finns (Sakari Kuosmanen, Tomi Salmela and Kari Väänänen) entranced by a heartbreaking tale of loss from their driver Mika (Matti Pellonpää).


Written and directed by cinematic dignitary Jim Jarmsuch, "Night on Earth" is a consummate display of his whimsical storytelling abilities, balancing humanism with often darkly comical situations. One of his earlier efforts, coming on the heels of "Mystery Train" and "Down by Law", it's an engaging and often whimsical take on human interaction and the universal bonds of fellowship.

 

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