The director who looks like a rock star and has his own slow, interesting way of directing and writing. He's always funny and serious at the same time, and always has something to say, even if he's not quite sure what he's saying.
Permanent Vacation (1982) -- This movie predated many of the 90s slacker movies by several years, but unfortunately it's just not incredibly interesting. In its defense, it was just a school project, and also the only copy I could find of it had an almost unbearable buzzing noise throughout.
Stranger Than Paradise (1984) -- This movie continues Jarmusch's common theme of slamming cultures into each other and/or seeing America through foreign eyes after having expectations for what America is. But the movie isn't as boring as the "point" sounds; it's just something extra to think about. In fact, the movie is excellent, with three characters who convince me that they love each other in their distance more than conventional movies with their speeches and music and hugs and junk. Good stuff.
Down By Law (1986) -- John Lurie and Tom Waits are two musicians who do a good job acting, which surprised me a bit. Add to them Roberto Benigni, who is always great and hilarious every second, and you've got a great movie with a gradual unfolding that gets better as it goes.
Mystery Train (1989) -- A pretty good group of three stories intertwining to slam various cultures (Japanese, Roman, black, and white to put it most simply--though it also deals with youth, wealth, criminal, and other social factors) against Memphis, USA... and specifically Elvis Presley, "The King." Probably more "specific" than Stranger Than Paradise (as also evidenced by this one being in the more specific color versus the more universal black and white), but not quite a good, though really good. Meandering but interesting, some of the "narrative" choices pre-dates Pulp Fiction.
Night on Earth (1991) -- Vignette movies can probably only work if the parts are interesting by themselves, and none of these really are. None of them are real stories. In the Los Angeles segment, Winona Rider plays a completely unconvincing mechanic-wannabe cab driver (think high school acting, right down to the fact that she has a grease smudge on her cheek). The New York segment is probably the best, since it has more of a decent point than the rest. The Paris segment's point is the trite "blind people see more than you do." The Rome segment is very watchable just because Roberto Benigni is so hilarious (talking here about screwing pumpkins). And the Helsinki segment is about "sad" stories which are only marginally (or everyday) sad, nothing profoundly sad. Everything looks fine and sounds fine, since Jim Jarmusch is involved, but every "story" gets old quick, which is bad since they're only about 20 minutes apiece.
Dead Man (1995) -- A perfect modern western, black and white, starring the often-wonderful Johnny Depp. Everyone is cast perfectly (featuring Crispin Glover, the enormous Robert Mitchum, Iggy Pop, and Billy Bob Thornton among others). The script unfolds carefully and slowly (though maybe slightly boring sometimes) as Depp's character William Blake (yes, like the poet) slowly dies from his bullet-wound.
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999) -- The old-time gangsters (who watch old cartoons) are dying and being replaced by by new-time gangsters (who watch Itchy and Scratchy cartoons). The gangsters are Dick Tracy types (though the faces aren't quite as exaggerated), and they also have to deal with Forrest Whitaker the samurai, who follows a code that mirrors the old code of the gangsters (but not the new non-code of the new generation). It's cooler than described here, and it's actually one of the hippest Jarmusch movies (which is saying a lot), with music by RZA which helps you groove to it. Thoughtful stuff, and exciting.
Coffee and Cigarettes (2003) -- Jim Jarmusch did a poor job with the last collection of shorts he put together, Night on Earth, and this one might be even worse (though some individual segments make it somewhat better). The first three segments were filmed as early as 1986, the very first with Steven Wright and Roberto Benigni being marginally funny. 1989's segment is stupid, with two boring, annoying twins listening to a wasted Steve Buschemi (with an insulting "Memphis" accent) talking about Elvis conspiracies (what else?). 1993's Tom Waits and Iggy Pop segment manages to be pretty decent (though still only "decent"), and the characters they play (as they are playing themselves) are likeable. The "Italian" section is boring, the "woman with coffee" section is boring, the "misunderstanding" section is like an even more redundant and bad version of an SNL sketch (if you can imagine that). Finally, Cate Blanchett's segment is something worth actually seeing, though even it is a rather trite comment on celebrity (with Cate doing a kind of dumb satire of herself). Meg and Jack White show up for the hipster-bingos to wank to; they're about as boring as they probably are in real life. The only section that could be seen as outright "good" is Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan, and it's also the funniest. Bill Murray talking to the GZA and the RZA isn't as funny as you think it might be (the rappers are tons more funny than Bill Murray is here). The last section gives good closure to the movie, and Taylor Mead does a really great job, but by the end, there's nothing much to be impressed with. Seems like something Jim Jarmusch did for kicks that he decided to release to the world. I guess it's really interesting for those people who got to be in it.
Broken Flowers (2005) -- By this point, I got pretty bored of Bill Murray showing little to no emotion and keeping a constant puppy dog frowny face through entire movies (specifically Lost in Translation and everything he did with Wes Anderson), but that sort of character works so well for this movie that it's not only forgivable but welcome. If this had been the first movie where he'd done it, it would have probably received more attention as Bill Murray's breakout dramatic movie. The movie itself is great, with the slow unraveling pace found in Dead Man and Ghost Dog. It takes its time, but the movie is purposeful, and it never seems to meander. The movie is also a great mystery, though not a conventional one, and the mystery keeps the audience wondering what's going to happen next (something not common in some of these indie movies). The original title, Dead Flowers, would have been better.
Copyright (c) Aug 2001 - Jan 2007 by Rusty Likes Movies