“If anyone tells you there is only one way, their way, get as far away from them as possible, both physically and philosophically.”
― Jim Jarmusch

To improve your knowledge about classical independent film, ÉCUs spotlight this week is dedicated to American filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, noted as one of the most influential proponents in the indie world. Jarmusch films are remarkable through their expressive pictures, good amount of black humor and refined minimalistic plots: he always starts with characters, which are of particular importance for him. His goal is not to show the life through action or some special occurrences, but to show the simple and at the same time usually quirky and strange people.

Jim Jarmusch was born in the small town in Ohio, USA in 1953. His passion for literature had won over his interest for films and he had been studying British and American literature in New York with a goal to become a poet. The turning point in his biography was his long stay in Paris, where he moved back to his preference to films thanks to Cinémathèque Française, which was his main studying in the film sciences (despite his further education at the prestigious Graduate Film School in New York). Jarmusch mentors were the famous film noir director Nicholas Ray and the German proponent of auteur theory Wim Wenders. Jarmusch was starting as an underground filmmaker and had become gradually integrated in the big (but still independent) cinema world with his works like Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) and The Limits of Control (2009).

Jarmusch seems to be more popular in the European independent film scene than in the American one; his films were mostly awarded at the film festivals in Europe. With his first major low-budget film Stranger Than Paradise (1984), he implicitly impressed the festival judges of 1984 Cannes Film Festival. This black-and-white film is about three young people who get bored in New York City and while travelling across America, they are pined away of complete hopelessness of existence in every point of the country they visited. Like here, as in most of his films, Jarmusch criticizes the American culture.

His next film, Down by Law (1986), with Roberto Benigni and Tom Waits, brought Jarmusch even more acceptance by the European audience and led him up in the rank of cult film directors. In the mood of jazz and blues music, connected with the jail atmosphere, it is the story about three men moving their way from society to the lonely individualists beyond the law. Music is also very important for Jarmusch: the soundtrack for his Acid Western Dead Man (1995) where “to go West” is a metaphor of the journey deep down inside the own self with Johnny Depp, John Hurt and Iggy Pop was written by Neil Young.

Jim Jarmusch was also featured in many films, including Blue In The Face (1995), by Wayne Wang (our spotlight from the last week by the way).

In 2012 Jarmusch was packed with global vampire interest as well as with the end of the world theme, and filmed Only Lovers Left Alive (2013), a romance drama vampire film starring Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasiakowska.

ÉCU is looking forward to seeing this upcoming independent film from this characteristic and unusual filmmaker who deeply believes that in the era of internet you don’t need major film studios to release your film. Otherwise, the independent film industry will have the same destiny as independent music: it comes to an end.

Xenia Piskunova

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