If the Independent cinema were to give out titles of nobility then Jim Jarmusch would definitely be a prince and probably the next in line to be king. Since there is no such thing yet; he will have to settle with being considered as one of the most important American filmmakers of the independent cinema and rest on the laurels of the public’s admiration as well as the industry’s.
During his final year in Columbia University he used his scholarship funds to finish his first feature film Permanent Vacation (1980). This semi-autobiographical first attempt was greeted with lukewarm reviews. The themes and tones explored on his first film, which were the urban environment, chance encounters and a dry sense of humor, has constantly remerged in his films during his career. His second film Stranger than Paradise (1984), put him on the map of independent filmmakers to watch. It won him the Camera d’Or award at the Cannes Film Festival and is now considered one of the landmarks of independent cinema. Jarmusch was instantly dubbed as an auteur and his cache on the art-house cinema circuit skyrocketed. The next years would grant Jarmusch another title, the road-movie auteur. The films that afforded him this title were: Down by Law (1986) starring Tom Waits and introducing Roberto Begnini to the American public, Mystery Train (1989) and Night on Earth (1991) starring independent film royalty Gena Rowlands.
The late nineties was a period of experimentation for Jarmusch. Dead Man(1995) was an offbeat period piece set in the 19th century Far West with music by Neil Young. His next film would take him from the Far West to the Far East with the crime thriller Ghost Dog: The Way of The Samurai(1999). The latter being the film that introduced him to the mainstream audience, combining the urban milieu of Jersey City with 18th century eastern philosophy. He even experimented with the score this time, which was written and performed by RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan.
In 2004 he released one of the most beloved films amongst his followers, Coffee and Cigarettes, a vignette of 11 shorts showing some of Jarmusch’s favorite collaborators sitting around talking. The director used footage of his friends and colleagues smoking and drinking coffee that spanned for two decades. Amongst the idle chatters you can see Iggy Pop, Roberto Begnini, Tom Waits, Jack White, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, Steve Buscemi and many more. Coffee and Cigarettes was followed by Broken Flowers(2005) starring with Bill Murray and the Limits of Control(2009), a crime thriller set in Spain. His latest film Only Lovers Left Alive with Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston competed for the Palme d’Or at the last Cannes Film Festival. A poetic, vampire romance-that if we believe the critics- would convince even the most adamant vampire haters that they should be turned.
What makes Jim Jarmusch very special is his ability to have an exterior look on his own culture and country, his excellent taste in music and the fact that he would never stop taking risks with his filmmaking. One could say that he is a worthy descendant of Cassavetes and Abel Ferara but at the same time his voice is so unique even if he says that “..nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination”.
So young filmmakers out there, take his advice, watch a lot of films, listen to very good music and then maybe spent your first scholarship on a film and when all that is done submit it to ÉCU and who knows, one day you may be accepted to royal court of Independent Film next to King Jim.