The Films of Jim Jarmusch
Stranger Than Paradise (August 18/14)
Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, Stranger Than Paradise follows a trio of oddball characters (John Lurie's Willie, Eszter Balint's Eva, and Richard Edson's Eddie) as they participate in a series of low-key adventures. It's an almost extraordinarily subdued premise that's employed to impressively watchable effect by Jarmusch, as the filmmaker does a superb job of slowly-but-surely transforming each of the three central characters into sympathetic, interesting figures - with the compelling bond that forms between them ensuring that the movie becomes more and more engrossing as it progresses. Jarmusch does, however, ask for a fair amount of patience from the viewer, as Stranger Than Paradise boasts an opening half hour that is, to put it mildly, far from plot heavy - with the writer/director instead offering up a series of vignettes set within the cramped confines of Willie's sketchy apartment. It's passable yet underwhelming stuff that's nevertheless enhanced by Jarmusch's palpable style and the appealingly deadpan work of the movie's stars, with the film's shift into an engaging drama triggered by the characters' expectedly off-kilter journey to Cleveland and, eventually, Florida. There's ultimately little doubt that Stranger Than Paradise's success depends entirely on one's ability to get onto Jarmusch's very specific wavelength, and it is, as such, impossible not to peg the film as a love-it-or-hate-it sort of endeavor.
Down by Law
Night on Earth
Year of the Horse
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
Coffee and Cigarettes
The Limits of Control
Only Lovers Left Alive (June 5/14)
Only Lovers Left Alive follows aging vampires Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) as they reunite after spending years apart, with the movie detailing the couple's efforts to cope with a variety of annoyances and problems (including the sudden arrival of Eve's wild, freespirited young sister). Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, along with cinematographer Yorick Le Saux, has infused Only Lovers Left Alive with a slow, dreamy atmosphere that proves impossible to resist, with the movie's heightened atmosphere perpetuated by the stars' captivating performances and, especially, by Carter Logan and Jozef van Wissem's hypnotic score. The mesmerizing vibe initially goes a long way towards compensating for the pointedly uneventful narrative, as Jarmusch seems content to eschew character development and plot advances in favor of a very specific (and palpable) mood. And although it does work for a little while, Only Lovers Left Alive, perhaps inevitably, reaches a point at which it begins to demonstrably run out of steam - with Jarmusch's meandering modus operandi paving the way for a second half that is, generally speaking, more sleep-inducing than entertaining. (It doesn't help, either, that the filmmaker has instructed his actors to deliver their dialogue in a whispery, mumbly manner, which ensures that the viewer is left straining to understand the majority of the characters' conversations.) The movie subsequently limps to its anticlimactic and rather abrupt finish, and it's ultimately rather clear that Only Lovers Left Alive is just unable to sustain one's interest from start to finish - which is too bad, of course, given that Jarmusch has imbued this distinctive world with a tremendous amount of appealing style.