James R. "Jim" Jarmusch
(born January 22, 1953) is an American independent film director, screenwriter, actor, producer, editor and composer.
Jarmusch has consistently been a major proponent of independent cinema
, since the 1980s.
First features and rise to fame: Vacation and Paradise
Jarmusch's final year university project was completed in 1980 as Permanent Vacation, his first feature film. It was made on a shoestring budget of around $12,000 in misdirected scholarship funds and shot by cinematographer Tom DiCillo on 16 mm film. The 75 minute quasi-autobiographical feature follows an adolescent drifter (Chris Parker) as he wanders around downtown Manhattan. The film was not released theatrically, and did not attract the sort of adulation from critics that greeted his later work. The Washington Post staff writer Hal Hinson would disparagingly comment in an aside during a review of Jarmusch's Mystery Train (1989) that in the director's debut, "the only talent he demonstrated was for collecting egregiously untalented actors". The bleak and unrefined Permanent Vacation is nevertheless one of the director's most personal films, and established many of the hallmarks he would exhibit in his later work, including derelict urban settings, chance encounters, and a wry sensibility.
Jarmusch's first major film, Stranger Than Paradise, was produced on a budget of approximately $125,000 and released in 1984 to much critical acclaim. A deadpan comedy recounting a strange journey of three disillusioned youths from New York through Cleveland to Florida, the film broke many conventions of traditional Hollywood filmmaking. It was awarded the Camera d'Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival as well as the 1985 National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Film, and became a landmark work in modern independent film.
Down by Law, Mystery Train, and Night on Earth
In 1986, Jarmusch wrote and directed Down by Law, starring musicians John Lurie and Tom Waits, and Italian comic actor Roberto Benigni (his introduction to American audiences) as three convicts who escape from a New Orleans jailhouse. Shot like the director's previous efforts in black and white, this constructivist neo-noir was Jarmusch's first collaboration with renowned Dutch cinematographer Robby Müller, who had been known for his work with Wenders.
His next two films each experimented with parallel narratives: Mystery Train (1989) told three successive stories set on the same night in and around a small Memphis hotel, and Night on Earth (1991) involved five cab drivers and their passengers on rides in five different world cities, beginning at sundown in Los Angeles and ending at sunrise in Helsinki. Less bleak and somber than Jarmusch's earlier work, Mystery Train nevertheless retained the director's askance conception of America. He wrote Night on Earth in about a week, out of frustration at the collapse of the production of another film he had written and the desire to visit and collaborate with friends such as Benigni, Gena Rowlands, and Isaach de Bankolé.
As a result of his early work, Jarmusch became an influential representative of the trend of the American road movie. Not intended to appeal to mainstream filmgoers, these early Jarmusch films were embraced by art house audiences, gaining a small but dedicated American following and cult status in Europe and Japan. Each of the four films had their premiere at the eminent and discerning New York Film Festival, while Mystery Train was in competition at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival. Jarmusch's distinctive aesthetic and auteur status fomented a critical backlash at the close of this early period, however; though reviewers praised the charm and adroitness of Mystery Train and Night On Earth, the director was increasingly charged with repetitiveness and risk-aversion.
A film appearance in 1989 as a used car dealer in the cult comedy Leningrad Cowboys Go America further solidified his interest and participation in the road movie genre. In 1991 Jim Jarmusch appeared as himself in Episode One of John Lurie's cult television series Fishing With John.
Late nineties, experiments in genre: Dead Man and Ghost Dog
In 1995, Jarmusch released Dead Man, a period film set in the 19th century American West starring Johnny Depp and Gary Farmer. Produced at a cost of almost $9 million with a high-profile cast including John Hurt, Gabriel Byrne and, in his final role, Robert Mitchum, the film marked a significant departure for the director from his previous features. Earnest in tone in comparison to its self-consciously hip and ironic predecessors, Dead Man was thematically expansive and of an often violent and progressively more surreal character. The film was shot in black and white by Robby Müller, and features a score composed and performed by Neil Young, for whom Jarmusch subsequently filmed the tour documentary Year of the Horse, released to tepid reviews in 1997.
Though ill-received by mainstream American reviewers, Dead Man found much favor internationally and among critics, many of whom lauded it as a visionary masterpiece. It has been hailed as one of the few films made by a Caucasian that presents an authentic Native American culture and character, and Jarmusch stands by it as such, though it has attracted both praise and castigation for its portrayal of the American West, violence, and especially Native Americans.
Following artistic success and critical acclaim in the American independent film community, he achieved mainstream renown with his far-East philosophical crime film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, shot in Jersey City and starring Forest Whitaker as a young inner-city man who has found purpose for his life by unyieldingly conforming it to the Hagakure, an 18th-century philosophy text and training manual for samurai, becoming, as directed, a terrifyingly deadly hit-man for a local mob boss to whom he may owe a debt, and who then betrays him. The soundtrack was supplied by RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. The film was unique among other things for the number of books important to and discussed by its characters, most of them listed bibliographically as part of the end credits. The film is also considered to be an homage to Le Samourai, a 1967 French New Wave film by auteur Jean-Pierre Melville, which starred renowned French actor Alain Delon in a strikingly similar role and narrative.
Late period: Cigarettes, Flowers, and Control
A five-year gap followed the release of Ghost Dog, which the director has attributed to a creative crisis he experienced in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in New York City. 2004 saw the eventual release of Coffee and Cigarettes, a collection of eleven short films of characters sitting around drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes that had been filmed by Jarmusch over the course of the previous two decades. The first vignette, "Strange to Meet You", had been shot for and aired on Saturday Night Live in 1986, and paired Roberto Benigni with comedian Steven Wright. This had been followed three years later by "Twins", a segment featuring actors Steve Buscemi and Joie and Cinqué Lee, and then in 1993 with the Short Film Palme d'Or-winning "Somewhere in California", starring musicians Tom Waits and Iggy Pop.
He followed Coffee and Cigarettes in 2005 with Broken Flowers, which starred Bill Murray as an early retiree who goes in search of the mother of his unknown son in attempt to overcome a midlife crisis. Following the release of Broken Flowers, Jarmusch signed a deal with Fortissimo Films, whereby the distributor would fund and have "first-look" rights to the director's future films, and cover some of the overhead costs of his production company, Exoskeleton.
Jarmusch's latest film, The Limits of Control, opened in the United States on May 22, 2009. A sparse, meditative crime film set in Spain, it starred Isaach de Bankolé as a lone assassin with a secretive mission. A behind-the-scenes documentary, Behind Jim Jarmusch, was filmed over three days on the set of the film in Seville by director Léa Rinaldi.
In October 2009, Jarmusch appeared as himself in an episode of the HBO series Bored to Death. In September 2010, Jarmusch helped to curate the All Tomorrow's Parties music festival in Monticello, New York. He is also working on a documentary about the rock band The Stooges and co-writing a non-traditional opera about the inventor Nikola Tesla. In July 2012, Jarmusch began shooting a new film, Only Lovers Left Alive, with Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, Anton Yelchin, and John Hurt.[