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jim jarmusch retrospective
posted on 5-Mar-2002 by anton

jim jarmusch has established himself over the years as a unique independent filmmaker with a recognizable style and an impressive connections in the film/entertainment industry (which one realizes after seeing the likes of coffee and cigarettes). below is a free-flowing account/meditation inspired by his pictures.

after watching dead man again, I realized what I like best about jim jarmusch movies. their strange pace when characters seem to calmly take completely absurd events. when they look at the world incredulously and proceed on their own; those long shots when nothing is uttered by his characters, when the camera glides over the landscapes, mesmerizing, meditating.

his humor, that could be rough and witty. the way he twists the story, neglecting the details. take down by law for instance, where this neglect is a little too obvious. in this respect dead man (that I did see on video before, and now had a chance to witness on big screen) is a lot more mature work.

I like the pace of his movies, the meditative nature of the camera, the combination of absurdity and placidity. down by law, with its unbelievable cast (tom waits, john lurie, and roberto benigni), a comedy of simplified stereotypical characters, clashing together, episodes pieced together in slow-paced illogical chain of events. every single one out of this troika has a simplified character - be it stylish coolness of tom waits or charming goofiness of benigni (I do wonder sometimes if he ever escapes this typecast character).

I am still trying to understand why I like dead man so much. I guess its mixture of violence and absurdity, well-composed long shots, slow pace, strange symbolism. all this that can/should be called "style." of course jonny depp plays nicely, reminding me his awkward character in sleepy hollow, except for his comic and violent behavior at the second part of the movie. out of all jarmusch films I would probably name dead man as my favorite.

half way into the movie I realized that the interaction between the Indian and jonny depp's character reminds me the interaction in ghost dog between the samurai and the ice cream truck driver, when this relationship has been taken further down to the mystical absurdity.

just remembering how decadently elegant tom waits looked sitting with his whiskey bottle, or cruising around in the jaguar. those shots along, a glorious b-movie splendor, a combination of trashy chic and humor, when he lovingly makes fun of his characters.

come to think of it, his characters are always introspective ones, that prefer to watch the events and think about them quietly, leaving it up to an audience to try and follow them in their journey.

I can understand those that do not like his movies. after all, it is an acquired taste, and the turn offs might be way too strong to overcome. one has to follow the path of Hollywood oversaturation, to arrive to thoughtful minimalism, black and white meditative pace of jarmusch. but once you acquire the taste for his style, start liking his surreal characters, it is hard to let his movies go unnoticed.

it was a rare treat to be able to see his retrospective on a big screen. I still have images from his movies in my head - a long camera shot. fade out. darkness. slowly emerging black and white image. slow, steady, dreamy, haunting. jarmusch at his best.

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