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The Films of Jim Jarmusch

Permanent Vacation

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.

out of

Down by Law

Mystery Train

Night on Earth

Dead Man

Year of the Horse

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Coffee and Cigarettes

Broken Flowers

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 feel 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.

out of

Paterson (December 2/16)

Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, Paterson details a week in the life of Adam Driver's title character and follows the affable figure as he drives a city bus, spends time with his girlfriend (Golshifteh Farahani's Laura), and works on his poetry. It's perhaps not surprising to discover that Jarmusch has infused Paterson with as low-key a feel as the premise might've indicated, and yet the movie remains surprisingly compelling for the majority of its somewhat overlong running time - with Jarmusch's subdued approach to the material paving the way for a frequently hypnotic character study. Driver's superb, subtle turn as the likeable protagonist plays an instrumental role in cementing the movie's success, to be sure, and it's clear, too, that Paterson benefits from Jarmusch's typically idiosyncratic screenplay (which, in addition to detailing Paterson's relationship with the quirky Laura, frequently emphasizes the exploits of offbeat periphery figures). The pervasively subtle atmosphere paves the way for a narrative that grows more and more engrossing, which, in turn, ensures that Paterson himself becomes an increasingly captivating hero that one can't help but sympathize with and root for (and which ensures that a certain plot development in the third act is nothing short of heartbreaking). The end result is Jarmusch's best (and most personal, seemingly) film to come around in quite some time, with the irresistibly well-developed nature of the central character's small world merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of Paterson's many pleasures.

out of

© David Nusair