In ‘Permanent Vacation’ (1980), a 20-something boy called Allie (Chris Parker) whose father is not around and whose mother is institutionalised, is a big Charlie Parker fan. As he subconsciously searches for more meaning in his life, he meets a host of interesting characters.
‘Stranger Than Paradise’ (1984), Willie (John Lurie) is a Hungarian living in New York. His relatives ask him to look after his young cousin Eve (Eszter Balint) and he reluctantly agrees. After a few days they become affectionately close, but she leaves after only ten days with him.
‘Down By Law’ (1986), stuck together in a New Orleans prison, convicts Zack (Tom Waits) and Jack (Lurie) are constantly at each other’s throats until Roberto (Roberto Benigni), an Italian who speaks non-stop fractured English, joins them in their cell and becomes the object of their mutual disdain. Nevertheless, it is Roberto who brings the trio together long enough to organise a jailbreak. ‘Mystery Train’ (1989) tells the story of a Japanese couple who travel to Memphis to try to get a piece of the 1950s America that they have become obsessed with.
‘Night on Earth’ (1991) features five separate stories which all happen on the same night in five different taxis driving through five cities around the world: a Hollywood casting agent feels her age in L.A.; a learner cabbie, who is a former circus clown, drives through Harlem carrying two arguing passengers; a blind woman disorientates her driver in Paris; a non-believer (Benigni) finds a dead bishop on his back seat in Rome; and a driver and his passengers in Helsinki swap melancholy stories.
‘Dead Man’ (1995), in nineteenth century America, William Blake (Johnny Depp) travels West to take up a position at Dickinson’s metal works, only to find that the vacancy has already been filled. A series of chaotic and violent confrontations leave Blake wounded, but he is befriended by a native American named Nobody (Gary Farmer), who takes him on a spiritual journey.