Tag Archives: Jim Jarmusch

53. Stranger Than Paradise – Jim Jarmusch (1984)

Repeat Viewing.

“You know, it’s funny, you come to someplace new, and everything looks just the same”

It would be remiss of me not to mention straight away that Stranger than Paradise is my favourite movie of all time, so you’re not going to get a balanced and impartial review from me today. No way, Jose. It’s a movie that I love like a family member, and not a rarely seen great uncle or distant cousin, we’re talking a little brother or sister, in fact, just ask my nearest and dearest for further proof on my love for it! And, of course, I’m going to give it the full marks out of ten. (Sorry for giving away the entry’s ending) That being said I know it’s not the greatest movie ever committed to celluloid, that’s something like a Citizen Kane, Grand Illusion, Andrei Rublev, Tokyo Story, or Seven Samurai. Each one a great and influential film. Stranger than Paradise certainly influenced American independent cinema – I’ve got my own 16k word dissertation that attests to that- but I would struggle to call Stranger a great movie, at least in comparison to some of the previously mentioned films. I think my one true gripe with the film is the somewhat weak and out of place ending. It doesn’t really compliment the style of the film. My own take would be that the film doesn’t need an ending. It has no beginning or middle in the tradition of the Aristole three-act structure, so an ending doesn’t work in that context. Yet Stranger does bow to an ending with drama – and I use the term “drama” loosely – and it just doesn’t work for me.

That’s enough of the criticism. I can’t do it any more! What I love about Stranger is it’s uniqueness, I can’t think of another movie like it. I can’t think of a movie that deals with immigration, the failure, or even non-existence, of the American dream, alienation, friendship and so on whilst balancing it with a movie that has so little obvious drama and content. It’s almost like watching a home movie so little is happening in a literal sense, but it’s still so damn quotable. Anyone who doesn’t come away saying “bug off” isn’t paying hard enough attention. The characters are also very real. We don’t see them being people to admire, and we don’t see them redeeming themselves. They exist in their own bubble, and they don’t change. They are what they are. They’re the same in the beginning as they are at the end. People don’t change, really.

The film is also all kinds of cool. Anyone who has ever seen an interview with Jim Jarmusch knows he’s the coolest person on the planet. We’re talking Mick Jagger Gimme Shelter era coolness. And, naturally, the film’s coolness is transmitted everywhere. From the actors to the music to the cinematography. Stranger is beautifully photographed by Tom DiCillio – a hugely talented person – and edited into tiny fade-to-black vignettes, lasting from a few seconds and up to three or four minutes in some cases. The style was so inspiring to me that I shot my own grad film on 16mm black and white film stock and used about seven cuts in the whole flick. It just works so wonderfully when you’re working on a small budget. Finally I need to say a few words about John Lurie. For someone who isn’t even an actor primarily he gives a stunningly adept and understated performance. You should hate Lurie’s character, but you can’t help but like him.

I could go on and on about my love for this film, I didn’t even mention the locations’ importance, but I’m gonna quit while I’m behind ahead and start fantasizing about Jarmusch’s new film in production, Only Lovers Left Behind instead.

Marks out of ten – Ten

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50. The InnKeepers – Ti West (2011)

First Viewing.

50th film review extravaganza! (I did consider using a different colour or font to write this, but that would be madness. I’m allergic to anything that’s got more than a little colour in it. So I’ll just try mention my favourite director at some point instead to celebrate this milestone)

I’m not a big fan of the horror genre, but I do love ghost stories; Edgar Allan Poe, Washington Irving and so on. So, The Innkeepers intrigued me, it, so it has been claimed, isn’t your traditional try-scare-the-shit-out-of-me-24/7 type horror movie, but a slow burning old ghost movie instead. That’s enough to sell me on a horror flick. Nothing to do with me being an epic coward….

Now The Innkeepers is very low budget, we’re talking a few thousand dollars, but don’t let that put you off, the horror genre is rife with classics made for next to no money. The film does have that hipster vibe about it, you know, Baghead and Mutual Appreciation et al, you can imagine the director’s target audience was a bunch of kids with Win Butler haircuts who read Pitchfork (note: I’d totally get the one-side-shaved Win Butler look if I had more guts.) Again, I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I like a film that sets a tone and sticks to it. I hate to give spoilers away, but the film doesn’t exactly aim to scare you, but more make you invest in the characters and thus it plays with your emotions when certain things happen to these characters, it’s a rather interesting way of going about creating a horror. Of course this isn’t the kind of film that’s going to blow you away, but it’s a very enjoyable watch and, for my money, it pisses all over the torture-porn type horror genre as it actually shows some brains and humility. So take that Paranormal Activity 17!  If Jim Jarmusch ever made a horror this is how I would expect it to play out, except Jim’s film would be dripping with coolness and Iggy Pop would probably be playing the cross-dressing ghost of Jim Morrison. So, you know, The Innkeepers got that laid-back, we’re in no hurry vibe that Jarmusch works so well, which I do enjoy….

Marks out of ten – Seven.

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25. Ghost Dog – Jim Jarmusch (1999)

Repeat Viewing.

An action movie without any action, well isn’t that just typically Jarmusch? The cross-over between Samurai movie, Gangster movie and beatnik culture is a rare treat. With RZA’s damn-right dirty score and Forest Whitaker’s finest work-  this role was made for him, literally so JJ says- it cannot help but entertain you if you put in a little effort. And I can’t let this review hit the press without a mention for Isaach De Bankole, perhaps the most under-appreciated actor ever. He should be a star.

Marks out of ten – Nine

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21. Dead Man – Jim Jarmusch (1995)

Repeat Viewing.

A trend I’ve picked up on Jarmusch movies is that his works really improve upon multiple viewings. It’s one of the highest compliments I could place on a directors body of work. Dead Man reveals depths that are hard to initially pick up on when you’re preoccupied with following the story, so I didn’t leave the cinema feeling blown away by it, far from it, but the film ate away at my brain until I felt compelled to view it again and that’s where it comes into it’s own.It’s been a criticism that Jarmuch’s work lacks narrative, which is naive crap frankly, but I would say that it’s not his primary goal in filmmaking- And thank fuck that a director (with English as their primary language) realises that there’s more to a movie than just telling a story, and, unsurprisingly, it’s taken a lover of Ozu and Vigo to show us it. Watch Dead Man, give it a few days, then watch it again. Repeat process until movie satisfaction is attained.

Marks out of ten – Eight

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15. The Limits of Control – Jim Jarmusch (2009)

Repeat Viewing.

As an unashamed Jarmusch lover I approached this film with unadulterated excitement back when I first viewed it in June 09. I enjoyed the movie, but ultimately felt confused by what I had seen. Upon closer inspection and a second viewing I can now see the film for what it should be recognized as; a masterpiece. With no expectations this time around I allowed myself to revel in the mastery Jarmusch and Doyle weave with their photography and visuals. To explain the film seeks only to distract oneself from the greater picture, this is Jarmusch beyond popcorn cinema, this is art.

Marks out of ten – Ten 

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