Spotlight On: Jim Jarmusch

The career path of a filmmaker tends to be one strikes it big with an indie hit and moves on to studio work. But for many the creative freedom independent cinema offers appeals to the unique creativity of man so they remain in this world. One such talent is Jim Jarmusch, who discovered a passion for film and an immersion in counterculture and music at the same time. Eventually this led to Jarmusch becoming a writer and director himself, but his sensibilities were far from the mainstream. He was an artist who combined his passions into quirky, clever, funny, and sharp pictures that are uniquely he is. So with that we shine a spotlight on indie movie legend Jim Jarmusch.

Stranger Than Paradise (1984): This small budget film was blunt and lacking in production values, but it proved the talent and vision Jim Jarmusch wielded. In New York, slacker Willie (John Lurie) and his pal Eddie (Richard Edson) get a visit from his Hungarian cousin Eva (Eszter Balint). The film focuses on the evolving relationship between the three as they travel to Cleveland and later Florida in a three part tale. With Stranger Than Paradise, Jarmusch pioneered a trail many other indie filmmakers would follow in the years to come.

Mystery Train (1989): One of the things I personally love about living in Memphis is that everyone has a story. Jim Jarmusch seems to know this and tapped into perfectly in his anthology of three stories tied to the Bluff City and guests at a rundown hotel on South Main run by a manager played by music legend Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. “Far From Yokohama” features a young Japanese couple (Masatoshi Nagase and Youki Kudoh) exploring the city’s musical roots, “The Ghost” sees an Italian widow (Nicoletta Braschi) make a new friend while being visited by the ghost of Elvis and “Lost in Space” sees a trio’s (Steve Buscemi, Joe Strummer, and Rick Aviles) night at the liquor store go wrong. Throughout it all, the famed filmmaker perfectly captures the spirit of the city.

Night on Earth (1991): Over the course of a single night cab drivers in: Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Rome, and Helsinki pick up passengers and learn about their lives. With just a few moments, each ride tells fascinating human stories for better or worse. The ensemble lined for to help Jarmusch tell these stories is a full international cast of talent consisting of actors like: Winona Ryder, Giancarlo Esposito, Roberto Benigni, Isaach De Bankole and more.

Dead Man (1995): Jim Jarmusch’s unique take on the western would famously serve as the final film for screen legend Robert Mitchum. An accountant looking to make his way out west William Blake (Johnny Depp) immediately finds hostility and it is not long before he is forced to kill Charlie (Gabriel Byrne) the son of the town’s most powerful man in self-defense. Naturally this does not bode well, as William is now wanted dead or alive. But the bullet he took during the fatal gunfight means that he does not have long himself, and relies on the Native American, Nobody (Gary Farmer) to guide him to his place in the spirit world.

Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai (1999): A loner living by the ways of the samurai Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker) sees himself forever indebted to Louie (John Tormey), the gangster who once saved his life. To this end he makes available his services as a hitman, but when one of his hits does not go as planned and the daughter of the local mafia boss witnesses him killing a made man. This brings the mob down on Ghost Dog who has found a pseudo-apprentice in a young girl named Pearline (Camille Winbush). The hitman realizes that with the mob after him he needs to hit them first. One of Jarmusch’s most interesting films, the director blends slick action with a heartfelt look at a man who is living in the wrong era.

Broken Flowers (2005): Wealthy womanizer Don Johnston (Bill Murray) is looking forward to a well-earned retirement. But his plan are changed drastically when he learns he has a son with one of the many women from his past. Pressured by a friend, Don visits four of his former partners (Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, and Tilda Swinton) and sees how time and their interactions with him left an impact on their lives. Given the quirky deadpan comedy style they share, Jim Jarmusch and Bill Murray prove to be fantastic collaborators in this heartfelt and funny character exploration.