Night on Earth (AV Channel) (1991)

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Released 31-Aug-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1991
Running Time 122:44
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jim Jarmusch
Madman Entertainment
Starring Gena Rowlands
Winona Ryder
Lisanne Falk
Alan Randolph Scott
Anthony Portillo
Armin Mueller-Stahl
Giancarlo Esposito
Rosie Perez
Richard Boes
Isaach De Bankolé
Béatrice Dalle
Pascal N'Zonzi
Emile Abossolo M'bo
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Kathleen Brennan
Tom Waits

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Finnish Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.75:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Jim Jarmusch's films are pervaded by a sense of aimless wandering and directionless travel. From Stranger Than Paradise, through Dead Man to the recent Broken Flowers, his protagonists are always on the move, but often unsure of their final destination, or uncertain if reaching a destination will be of any value. Perhaps something of a cliché, the small details and marginal events of the journey are more important to Jarmusch than arrival and tidy conclusions. He often discards a structured narrative in favour of small vignettes focused on small moments, especially in his early work.

    Night On Earth is a collection of five such moments occurring over one night in taxis working Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome, and Helsinki. In L.A., a feisty wannabe mechanic and taxi driver (Winona Ryder) catches the attention of a flustered casting agent (Gena Rowlands); a circus clown from Germany (Armin Mueller-Stahl) picks up his first New York fare and learns to drive in the process; an Ivory Coast immigrant driver (Isaach de Bankole) in Paris comes to terms with his own prejudices after picking up a blind woman; Roberto Benigni drives a Bishop home and confesses all sorts of devious crimes; and, in the film's most touching segment, Finnish cab driver Mika (Matti Pellonpaa) trades tales of personal tragedy with his drunken passengers. Dialogue is foremost in Night On Earth and very little occurs outside of picking up and dropping off. This kind of structure gives the viewer ample time to savour the moment of encounter and experience a slice of reality usually overlooked. The brief taxi rides range the whole spectrum of emotion from Benigni's hilarious tales of farmyard trysts to Pellonpaa's teary ride, but each segment is nothing short of satisfying.

    If I was forced to find a weak element, I'd suggest that Winona Ryder's performance is the only one to register any kind of false note. She overacts just a little too much, but I am nitpicking an otherwise fantastic film. The languid pace of Night On Earth (and all of Jarmusch's films for that matter) may be off-putting for some, but Jarmusch has himself suggested that his films are designed to allow your mind to wander, and beneath the apparently aimless movement is an exceptional piece of filmmaking. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

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Transfer Quality


    Just like Madman's release of Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise, what is otherwise an excellent video transfer for Night on Earth is undermined by a mastering issue. It is 16x9 enhanced. The image is framed at 1.78:1, but vertical black bars left and right make the actual displayed image closer to 1.75:1. The original aspect ratio is 1.85:1.

    Confined to taxi interiors, faces are the most important visual element in the film. Consequently, Jarmusch uses a fairly shallow field depth. Faces are sharp and detailed, while extreme foreground and distant elements are soft and unfocused. Shadow detail is consequently limited depending on the film's focus. Low level noise is well controlled, with some visible grain.

    Every scene is shot at night and the colours reflect this accurately. Bright colours are rare and what colours there are respond naturally to the passing street and traffic lights. Skin tones are natural. Each shot of the clocks is shot with different coloured lighting and appear a little washed out. There is a little fluctuation in brightness now and then, noticeable most in the opening credits.

    The transfer is let down by several moments of digital tape dropout. The artefact appears very briefly but occurs several times during the Paris segment between 52:15 and 54:35 and again in the Rome segment between 87:41 and 94:47. This is also an issue on Madman's release of Stranger Than Paradise and I wonder if the issue affects all their Jarmusch releases.

    Black and white spots and specks are visible here and there, especially during the clock shots and the opening credits. A rather large blemish appears centre screen at 93:10.

    Yellow English subtitles translate only the foreign dialogue. English dialogue is untitled.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    Audio is also very good. We are provided with a single "English" Dolby Digital 2.0 surround encoded track (the characters speak English, French, Italian, and Finnish).

    Dialogue quality is very good and understandable, but sounds just a little tinny in the upper ranges. Audio sync is accurate.

    In surround mode, the rears support the music and city sounds. The woofer stirs just a little for the music. I preferred to listen to the track in stereo. Although primarily focused on dialogue, passing traffic and the noises of the cities move across the front sound stage and create an excellent ambience.

    Music is always an important element of Jarmusch's films and he continues to work with some of the best musicians of today. Night on Earth's score is composed by Tom Waits (who appeared in Down By Law), with original songs by Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan. The score is mostly variations on the excellent opening credits song, Back in the Good Old World, performed by Tom Waits. It's a very good score, varying the instrumentation to match each country.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    We don't get very much here.

Theatrical Trailer

    Letterboxed 4x3 trailer focusing on the comedic elements of the film.


    Filmographies for Winona Ryder, Roberto Benigni, and Beatrice Dalle.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Night on Earth is not yet available in Region 1. The Region 2 release from Second Sight is available singly or as part of box set release with Down By Law. The film is presented in a ratio of 1.78:1 (incorrect ratio again) and with no extras at all. Subtitles are burnt in. The transfer sounds equal to ours, although I have not encountered a review mentioning the digital tape dropouts.

    There is an out of print Region 2 Japanese box set including Night On Earth, Mystery Train, Dead Man and Ghost Dog, with English and Japanese subtitles. A double release of Night on Earth with Mystery Train is currently available, but I haven't been able to determine what subtitles are included or whether the film is presented in the correct aspect ratio.

    It's a tough call here. The UK release sounds to be of better quality than ours, but then it is also in the wrong aspect ratio. And not enough information is available about the Japanese releases to recommend them without hesitation. For the moment, I'd have to call it even.



    Night On Earth is a high point among high points in Jim Jarmusch's career and highly recommended viewing.

    Video is very good, but displays a few distracting problems.

    Audio very good and captures the ambience of city traffic.

    Extras are very limited.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Adam Atkinson (read my bio)
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-S336, using Component output
DisplayLG Flatron Widescreen RT-28FZ85RX. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V357
SpeakersDB Dynamics Belmont Series: Fronts: B50F, Centre: B50C, Rears: B50S, Sub: SW8BR

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Worth Upgrading - Dave D (read my bio) REPLY POSTED
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