Listen up Jim Jarmusch’ fans. The Film Society of Lincoln Center will be hosting Permanent Vacation: The Films of Jim Jarmusch — an event that will screen all of the acclaimed director’s 11 feature films, music videos and shorts — in honor of his latest film “Only Lovers Left Alive,” which will show at the Film Society on April 11.
“Only Lovers Left Alive,” which Indiewire’s Eric Kohn described as a “amusingly offbeat and intentionally meandering narrative,” about “retro cool vampires” was the 5th of Jamusch’s films to play at the NYFF, all which are deadpan funny, yet insightful and romantic.
“Over the course of his single-minded yet constantly surprising career, Jim Jarmusch has become a beloved, forever-cool icon of independent cinema,” said Dennis Lim, the Film Society’s Director of Programming. “We’re proud to present a complete survey of his work timed to the release of Only Lovers Left Alive. Jim’s latest film is one of his very best, and like so many of his others, a celebration of love, art, friendship, and the things that make life worth living.”
The follow list (descriptions provided by the Film Society) are the films showing from April 2-11:
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“Permanent Vacation” (1980)
After studying poetry at Columbia under Kenneth Koch and a transformative period in Paris soaking in the offerings of the Cinematheque Francaise, Jarmusch enrolled in film school at NYU. In his senior year, he made what would become his debut feature: 75 minutes of frayed downtown cool. Aloysius Parker (Chris Parker) is the prototype for many of Jarmusch’s subsequent loner heroes: he loafs aimlessly around his scuzzy apartment and crumbling New York streets reading French poetry, flirting with cute girls at Nicholas Ray screenings, stealing cars, and obsessing over his half-punk, half-dandy image. For all its youthful self-seriousness (or maybe in part because of it), “Permanent Vacation” is a touching vision of what it was like to be head over heels with art, love, and oneself in late-1970s New York.
“Stranger than Paradise” (1984)
Jarmusch established himself as a major new talent with this low-budget, black-and-white portrait of three directionless young people: a detached, world-weary New York hipster (John Lurie), his fedora’d best friend (Richard Edson), and his 16-year-old Hungarian cousin (Eszter Balint), who’s just landed in the States with an arsenal of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins tapes. Jarmusch was just four years out of film school, but much of his signature style was already on full display: his spot-on sense of place, his poker-faced brand of comedy, his sympathy with foreigners at once deeply attuned to and culturally cut off from their surroundings, his meticulous soundtrack choices, his love for chapter divisions and other rigid structuring elements (each scene is a single take followed by a cut to black), and his willingness to wear his influences on his sleeve (Ozu and Antonioni loom especially large here). With its careful mix of irony and pathos, “Stranger than Paradise” is one of the watershed American indie films of the 1980s.
“Down by Law” (1986)
Jarmusch re-teamed with John Lurie after the breakthrough success of “Stranger than Paradise” for this pitch-perfect Louisiana-set comic odyssey, shot in stunning black-and-white by Robby Muller. Three rebellious deadbeats–a prickly, gravel-voiced radio DJ (Tom Waits), a laconic, idealistic would-be pimp (Lurie), and a gregarious Italian expat armed with a handbook of English idioms (Roberto Benigni)–form an unlikely alliance when they land in the same New Orleans jail cell. Aside from featuring two of Jarmusch’s finest musical set-pieces–a daybreak crawl through the streets of New Orleans to the strains of Waits’s “Jockey Full of Bourbon,” and a knockout last-act dance set to Irma Thomas’s “It’s Raining”–“Down by Law” is an endlessly quotable character-driven comedy, a peerless study of male friendship, and a love letter to the bayous and back alleys of Louisiana. Benigni’s character delivers the film’s motto, which could be the refrain of Jarmusch’s entire body of work: “It’s a sad and beautiful world.”
“Mystery Train” (1989)
“Mystery Train”, like “Down by Law”, is a small group portrait of misfits and foreigners adrift in the American South. Here the setting has shifted to Memphis, the cast has widened, and the mood has slightly darkened. A young, rock ‘n’ roll-obsessed Japanese couple (Masatoshi Nagase and Yuki Kudo) make a trans-Pacific pilgrimage to the home of (for her) Elvis and (for him) Carl Perkins. An Italian widow (Nicoletta Braschi), lost in the city, hears a disquieting story about the ghost of the King. And a down-and-out Brit (Joe Strummer), mourning the loss of his girlfriend and job, moves from boozing to violence to a kind of tragicomic redemption over the course of one long night. With its sensitivity to the plight of strangers in strange new American lands, its attention to the cultural memory of places, and its sense of the way taste can both bring people together and keep them apart, “Mystery Train” might be Jarmusch’s signature movie. With Steve Buscemi and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.
“Night on Earth” (1991)
Each of Jarmusch’s films leading up to “Night on Earth” had dealt to some degree with urban disconnect and the possibility of cross-cultural communication–a tendency that climaxed with this set of five taxicab vignettes set in L.A., New York, Paris, Rome, and Helsinki. Tonally,”Night on Earth” veers from broad comedy–Roberto Benigni telling increasingly outre yarns from his sexual history–to more sober territory. The final story, following a bereaved Helsinki cab driver and his three drunken passengers, is at once deeply sad and laced with some very black Scandinavian humor. Along the way, we encounter a handful of Jarmusch’s most indelible characters: Beatrice Dalle’s blind Parisian and her stone-faced Ivoirien driver (Isaach De Bankole); Armin Mueller-Stahl’s German clown-turned-cabbie, still learning how to drive an automatic; Winona Ryder’s chain-smoking aspiring mechanic and the casting agent who tries to court her into showbiz (Gena Rowlands). One of Jarmusch’s warmest films, “Night on Earth” is still the director’s fullest attempt at making a cinema free of national borders.
“Dead Man” (1995)
Jarmusch’s career took a decisive turn with what has come to be recognized as his masterpiece: a hypnotic, parable-like revisionist Western about the spiritual rebirth of a dying 19th-century accountant (Johnny Depp) named William Blake (no relation–or is there?). Guiding Blake through a treacherous landscape of U.S. Marshals, cannibalistic bounty hunters, shady missionaries, and cross-dressing fur traders is Nobody (Gary Farmer), a Plains Indian who becomes, over the course of the film, one of the most fully realized Native American characters in recent cinema. (Jarmusch peppered the film with in-jokes and untranslated bits of dialogue aimed squarely at Native American viewers.) For all its metaphysical trappings, “Dead Man” doubles as a barbed reflection on America’s treatment of its indigenous people and a radical twist on the traditional myth of the American West.
“Year of the Horse” (1997)
A year after Neil Young provided the searing, largely improvised solo guitar soundtrack for “Dead Man”, Jarmusch made his only documentary to date: a scrapbook of interviews, archival clips, and concert footage of Young’s band Crazy Horse shot over the course of their 1996 world tour. The performances, which Jarmusch often lets play out in full, lie squarely at the heart of the film, but the surrounding interviews give a surprising, candid account of the band’s 30-year history. There’s always been a tension between Crazy Horse’s status as a full-fledged rock group and its frequent billing as Young’s backing band—a tension that Jarmusch leaves suggestively open. At the time, the band’s fuzzed-out, feverish guitar squalls were being touted as an ancestor to the then-booming grunge movement, and “Year of the Horse”, which Jarmusch shot on a mixture of Super-8, 16mm, and video, has”to lift the title from one of Crazy Horse’s previous live records–a similar brand of ragged glory.
“Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” (1999)
“Even if one’s head were to be suddenly cut off, he should be able to do one more action with certainty.” Jarmusch’s first narrative feature after “Dead Man” was another revisionist genre film: a mashup of the mob movie and samurai film with one foot placed in ’60s hit man chic (Melville’s “Le Samouri” and Suzuki’s “Branded to Kill” are two key reference points) and the other in ’90s hip-hop culture (the soundtrack is by RZA, of Wu-Tang fame). Forest Whitaker plays an impassive master killer who goes by Ghost Dog, lives on a roof in an unnamed city, quotes generously from samurai manuals and communicates exclusively by carrier pigeon. He’s another of Jarmusch’s iconic loners, a cross-cultural ambassador defined by his artistic taste and surrounded by an aura of self-assured cool–not to mention the key bridge between the hapless urban wanderers of the director’s earlier works and the imperturbable Zen heroes of “Only Lovers Left Alive” and “The Limits of Control.”
“Coffee and Cigarettes” (2003)
Jarmusch’s films all depend to some extent on the appeal of watching ineffably cool people doing very little, but none more than this patchwork quilt of coffee-fueled conversations, hangout sessions, and chance encounters. Iggy Pop and Tom Waits make hilariously stilted small talk in a roadside diner. Alfred Molina reveals to an aloof, weirded-out Steve Coogan that the two of them are cousins. The Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA and RZA, nonchalantly drinking from a gilded teapot in yet another diner, find themselves being waited on by Bill Murray, taken aback by some of his odder habits (like lighting his cigarettes with a blowtorch). One episode, starring the White Stripes, is aptly titled “Jack Shows Meg His Tesla Coil.” Other segments (there are 11 in total) feature Cate Blanchett, Steve Buscemi, Alex Descas, Roberto Benigni, and Isaach De Bankole. Together, they constitute one of Jarmusch’s funniest and most delightful movies, at once a celebration and deconstruction of its performers’ various public personas.
“Broken Flowers” (2005)
Jarmusch’s first full-length collaboration with Bill Murray (after the latter’s memorable turn in “Coffee and Cigarettes” was this tender, melancholic road movie. After receiving an unsigned letter informing him that he’s the father of a 19-year-old son, Murray’s aging, lethargic lothario Don Johnson sets out on a tour through America to visit a series of five old flames. At that point, “Broken Flowers” becomes a showcase for a who’s-who of remarkable actresses: Sharon Stone as a widowed race-car-driver’s wife, Six Feet Under’s Frances Conroy as a flower-child-turned-realtor living in a squeaky-clean prefab, Jessica Lange as a pet psychiatrist guarded by her chilly assistant (Chloe Sevigny), and Tilda Swinton as a bitter, beaten-down biker’s girlfriend. An American Odyssey with a mysteriously absent Telemachus and a set of unwilling Penelopes, “Broken Flowers” builds to a deeply affecting climax.
“The Limits of Control” (2009)
In “Dead Man”, Jarmusch rebuilt the Western from the inside out; 14 years later, he did the same for the espionage thriller. “The Limits of Control”, gorgeously shot by Wong Kar-wai’s DP of choice Christopher Doyle, is a spy film gutted of action, a mystery that takes place almost entirely in the time between plot points, a James Bond movie whose Bond hails from the Ivory Coast rather than Scotland. (He’s played by Isaach De Bankole, who, incidentally, appeared in “Casino Royale”–as a terrorist.) “The Lone Man” at the film’s center drifts through a lineup of picturesque Spanish settings and a series of ritualized one-on-one meetings, each involving paired espressos, swallowed messages, and Eastern-inflected philosophizing. He’s a man on a mission, but we get the sense that the goal, which involves a corporate compound run by a world-weary Bill Murray, is less important than the steps along the way. With its museum digressions, deadly guitar strings, and bouts of restroom-stall tai chi, “The Limits of Control” is, as the title suggests, an intoxicating vision of art making and consumption at their freest.
“Only Lovers Left Alive” (2013)
Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton make a dashing and very literal first couple–centuries-old lovers Adam and Eve–in Jim Jarmusch’s wry, tender take on the vampire genre. When we first meet the pair, he’s making rock music in Detroit while she’s hanging out with an equally ageless Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt) in Tangiers. (Long-distance spells aren’t such a big deal when you’ve been together throughout hundreds of years.) Between sips of untainted hospital-donated blood, they struggle with depression and an ever-changing world, reflect on their favorite humans (Buster Keaton, Albert Einstein, Jack White), and watch time go by, each finding stability in the other. “Only Lovers Left Alive” is Jarmusch at his most personal and emotionally direct: a fond, wistful portrait of (extremely) long-term coupledom and a tribute, alternately funny and melancholic, to the works of art and the acts of love that might make life worth living forever.
For more information on showtimes, locations, and screenings check out Film Society’s site.