Jim Jarmusch

The Limits of Control

As many successful American filmmakers who get their start in independent filmmaking quickly find themselves comfortable in Hollywood studios, Jim Jarmusch feels like the anachronism that the economics of filmmaking rarely find room for but the culture of cinema certainly needs. After making the No Wave-era Permanent Vacation on the seemingly post-apocalyptic landscape of a crumbling late-70s New York, Jarmusch made waves at the then-young Sundance film festival with Stranger Than Paradise, a bare bones indie that exhibited the director’s penchant for deliberate pacing, wry humor, an insistent soundtrack and a canted examination of Americana. Jarmusch’s productions are few and far between, partly due to the fact that he is ever in want of funding and seeks final cut on all his films. The process may be difficult, but it’s worth it: thirty years after Paradise, Jarmusch crafted Only Lovers Left Alive (recently released on disc and digital), a film that surprised me as both a sideways look at high-cult consumption and one of the most genuinely romantic films of this year. It is, in short, well worth the seven years of frustration that it took to get the film made and into theaters. It’s hard to imagine the same film coming from a filmmaker willing to touch studio funding. And it’s an intoxicating glimpse of what could be if more independent filmmakers were as unimpressed by studio dollars as Jarmusch. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a Son of Lee Marvin.

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Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE

Editor’s note: Our review of Only Lovers Left Alive originally ran during this year’s SXSW, but we’re re-posting it as the film opens theatrically. Director Jim Jarmusch‘s (Broken Flowers, Dead Man) films have never been for everyone. They’re experimental in a variety of ways, but, for good or bad, they are always Jim Jarmusch films. However, sometimes too much Jarmuschiness can agitate even his own fans. His last film, The Limits of Control, never shied away from testing its audience’s patience in part because its awareness of itself was far too often distancing. That’s not the case with his latest film, Only Lovers Left Alive, a movie that maintains its focus, emotional investment, and laughs from start to finish. Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve (Tilda Swinton) have been lovers for hundreds of years. They’re true romantics, but they are on opposite sides of the world. Eve is living in Tangier, while Adam is in the rotting city of Detroit. Time is relative when you’re immortal, but still, it’s not easy for them. The distance becomes an issue when Adam, a shy goth rockstar, is feeling more lost than usual without her. She immediately packs her favorite novels, books a flight, and comes to Adam’s side. It should be mentioned that they’re also vampires, which explains why they’ve been alive for so long.

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Louis Sarno went to Africa in pursuit of his dream. 25 years ago, he followed a musical tradition into the jungles of the Central African Republic, where he found the Bayaka people. He never left. Accepted into this isolated society, he discovered a new community and a sense of peace. Or, at least, that was his dream. In hindsight, it can also seem a bit like mythology. The tension between Sarno’s mission and his reality is the crux of Song from the Forest. German filmmaker Michael Obert traveled to the CAR to capture the hybrid lifestyle of this errant Westerner and the family he has made for himself. Sarno has a Bayaka wife and son. When he decides to take 13-year-old Samedi on a trip to America, to meet his uncles and grandparents, Obert follows. The film is a blend of these two locales, a loosely assembled patchwork of insightful moments on two distant continents. READ MORE AT NONFICS

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Only Lovers Left Alive

When a well-known actor takes a job for the cash, the final result generally comes off as little more than a paycheck for all involved. Actress Tilda Swinton is lucky, in that regard. Her work-for-hire performances have served the likes of David Fincher, Tony Gilroy, the Coen Brothers, and the perfectly fine adaptation of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Those pictures aren’t Swinton “selling out,” but taking on respectable gigs with people whose work she admires. What revs the actress up the most are the kind of projects that represent who she is. “That’s just the way I roll,” says Swinton on her long history of staying in the trenches with the projects and filmmakers that she deeply connects with. She’s someone that stands by her director. If you recall, when Bong Joon-Ho’s director’s cut of Snowpiercer was in danger of being chopped up for its US release, Swinton quickly came to the his aid, saying, “Maybe an effect of the film is that when one has spent two hours in the claustrophobia of this train we can leave the cinema and feel the relief that we can make life wider, so maybe it’s a sort of aversion therapy to sit in the train for two hours. That’s two hours, not one hour and forty minutes.” Clearly, Swinton is an actress you want by your side during all the trials and tribulations of filmmaking. She also went to bat for director Jim Jarmusch for this long-in-development Only Lovers Left Alive. She’s been attached to the project […]

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Guardians of the Galaxy - Groot

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Bill Murray Retirement

Inarguably one of Bill Murray‘s best performances is Don Johnston from Jim Jarmusch‘s Broken Flowers. Murray has successfully played a variety of characters over his career, so pinning down Murray’s defining performance isn’t easy, but Broken Flowers is certainly close to the top in that regard. It’s a performance devoid of any associations we have of Murray as an actor. There’s no overt charm to Johnston. The jumpsuit-wearing character has a dry humor to him, but he’s not one of Murray’s characters we’d all jump at the chance to hang out with. However, we certainly want to watch him through Jarmusch’s lens for a few hours. The journey that the Don Juan character goes on is quielty powerful, leaving you completely feeling for this guy who’s hurt more than a few people in his life. It’s a testament to Jarmusch as a filmmaker, but also to Murray as an actor. Murray considers Johnston his finest work. Recently on Reddit, Murray mentioned how he briefly retired after Broken Flowers, believing he couldn’t do any better. And yet, he came back, for reasons he didn’t really discuss in that Q&A.

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Only Lovers Left Alive

You know, it must really be a new year and a new day if we have information about two vampire-related projects coming down the pipeline and they’re both instantly labeled as must-sees and don’t immediately make  everyone utter a collective “ugh” on sight. There’s nary a sparkle abound for 2014. First up is a film in which Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are undead British rock star lovers, something that none of us had ever really formulated into so many words, but subconsciously, realize that it makes way too much sense. Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive — our 24th most anticipated movie of 2014 — is the story of a depressed vampire rocker (Hiddleston) who is just fed up with this modern world and its ever-changing technology. Luckily, he has his beautiful, understanding wife to console him with blood popsicles and shots, followed by some listless trance dancing. Normal couple stuff. A visit after 87 years of peace from bratty younger sister Mia Wasikowska is just another inconvenience in their life of style.

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While watching Thor: The Dark World, my desire was to switch this week’s list of movies to watch to a list of TV series to watch. The whole movie is like Game of Thrones meets Doctor Who, the former an understandable influence since director Alan Taylor has helmed six episodes of that show (the fact that Christopher Eccleston is in the movie has nothing to do with the latter). He’s also won an Emmy for his work directing The Sopranos and a DGA Award for his work on Mad Men. Other series I was reminded of while watching include The Wire, because of Idris Elba, Lost, because of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and The IT Crowd, because of Chris O’Dowd. But most of these are already so well known, and they really don’t have a lot to do with Thor 2 other than talent connections. I also wasn’t interested in checking out 2 Broke Girls just to make a well-rounded yet thin point. So, here’s your usual list of movies I thought to recommend after the Thor sequel. Not surprisingly, there are no appropriate documentaries included this time. You’re welcome. Minor SPOILERS if you haven’t seen Thor: The Dark World. 

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Somewhere in California

Why Watch? In 1993, this segment from Jim Jarmusch‘s Coffee and Cigarettes won the Palme d’Or at Cannes as the Best Short Film. Somewhere in California shoves Iggy Pop and Tom Waits into a restaurant booth with a big pile of droll wi, and the atmosphere of a tragically unsuccessful first date. Part of the genius is Waits’ caustic mood — responding to just about everything Iggy Pop says with antagonism and derision. Of course, watching famous musicians swing through the awkward, all-too-familiar motions is what truly works. The stilted banter about first names, the small talk about chain restaurants, the uncomfortable goodbyes. All of them serve to absolutely destroy a romantic vision of rock stars that gets stuck in our eyes. The short also manages to make most people hungry for pie and coffee. What Will It Cost? About 11 minutes. Keep Watching Short Films

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Only Lovers Left Alive

Jim Jarmusch usually only makes a new movie once every few years these days, so it’s always nice to see something he’s done pop up on the upcoming releases calendar. His latest work, Only Lovers Left Alive, can’t help but give one pause though. Is Jim Jarmusch, the guy who always makes off the beaten path projects, really making a vampire movie at the height of this current, Twilight-inspired vampire craze? Yes, it’s true, Jarmusch is making a movie about a glamorous, vampire rock star and his eternal romance with a pale, blood sucking beauty—but there’s a twist that makes all of that instantly okay. As you can see from the film’s first released image [via Indiewire], Jarmusch has cast The Avengers’ Tom Hiddleston as his vampire rocker, and Middle-earth’s Tilda Swinton as his centuries-old lover. Maybe it goes without saying, but… They. Look. Awesome. That’s all it takes, just one image of these two wearing sunglasses at night, and suddenly one’s mind dizzies with the anticipation of watching them hanging all over each other and acting all sleazy together. What a couple of creeps. Factor in that Jarmusch has also cast Mia Wasikowska as Swinton’s crazy little sister, and this thing is likely to extend the tired vampire craze by another five years. But it’s going to be worth it.

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Criterion Files

The Criterion Collection’s motto makes explicit its devotion to “important classic and contemporary films,” but it’s also clear that the Collection has dedicated itself to the careers of a select group of important classic and contemporary directors. Several prestigious directors have a prominent portion of their careers represented by the collection. Between the Criterion spine numbers and Eclipse box sets, 21 Ingmar Bergman films are represented (and multiple versions of two of these films), ranging from his 1940s work to Fanny and Alexander (and 3 documentaries about him). 26 Akira Kurosawa films have been given the Criterion/Eclipse treatment, and Yashujiro Ozu has 17 films in the collection. Though many factors go into forming the collection, including the ever-shifting issue of rights and ownership over certain titles, it’s hard to argue against the criticism (or, perhaps more accurately, obvious observation) that the films in the Collection represent certain preferences of taste which makes its omissions suspect and its occasionally-puzzling choices fodder for investigation or too predictable to be interesting (two Kurosawa Eclipse sets?). And while the Collection has recently upped its game on the “contemporary” portion of its claim by highlighting modern-day masterpieces like Olivier Assayas’s Carlos and Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, for the most part attempts at forming a complete directorial filmography via within the Collection has typically been reserved for directors whose filmographies have completed. Except, of course, for the case of Wes Anderson.

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Culture Warrior

As much as I admire the incomparable films made during the era, New Hollywood (the term referring to innovative, risk-taking films made funded by studios from the mid-60s to the mid-70s) is a title that I find a bit problematic. The words “New Hollywood” better characterize the era that came after what the moniker traditionally refers to. Think about it: if “Old” or “Classical” Hollywood refers to the time period that stretches roughly from 1930 to 1960 when the studios as an industry maintained such an organized and regimented domination over and erasure of any other potential conception over what a film playing in any normal movie theater could be, then if we refer to the time period from roughly 1977 to now “New Hollywood,” the term then appropriately signifies a new manifestation of the old: regimentation, predictability, and limitation of expression. Where Old Hollywood studios would produce dozens of films of the same genre, New Hollywood (as I’m appropriating the term) could acutely describe the studios’ comparably stratified output of sequels, remakes, etc. What we traditionally understand to be New Hollywood was not so much its own monolithic era in Hollywood’s legacy, but a brief, strange, and wonderful lapse between two modes of Hollywood filmmaking that have dominated the industry’s history.

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Culture Warrior

A genre nearly as old as filmmaking itself, the western thrived throughout the years of the studio system but has zigzagged across rough terrain for the past forty or so years. For the last fifteen-ish years, the struggling, commercially unfriendly genre was either manifested in a neoclassical nostalgic form limited in potential mass appeal (Appaloosa, Open Range) or in reimagined approaches that ran the gamut between contrived pap and inspired deconstructions (anything from Wild Wild West to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford). But last December, True Grit – a bona fide western remake that relied on the opportunities available in the genre’s conventions rather than bells, whistles, or ironic tongues in their respective cheeks – became a smash hit. Did this film reinvigorate a genre that was on life support, as the supposed revitalization of the musical is thought to have done a decade ago, or are westerns surviving by moving along a different route altogether? Three westerns released so far this year – Gore Verbinski’s Rango, Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff, and, as of this weekend, Jon Favreau’s Cowboys & Aliens – suggest mixed directions for the dusty ol’ genre.

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Culture Warrior

Last week, as I watched Quentin Dupieux’s Rubber, I noticed that the trailers on the rental Blu-Ray were all of titles sharing space at the top of my queue: titles like Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins, Kim Ji-woon’s I Saw the Devil, and Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun. All, I quickly realized, had been released by the same studio, Magnet Releasing, whose label I recalled first noticing in front of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson. After some quick Internet searching, I quickly realized what I should have known initially, that Magnet was a subsidiary of indie distributor Magnolia Pictures. The practices of “indie” subsidiaries of studios has become commonplace. That majors like Universal and 20th Century Fox carry specialty labels Focus Features and Fox Searchlight which market to discerning audiences irrespective of whether or not the individual titles released are independently financed or studio-produced has become a defining practice for limited release titles and has, perhaps more than any other factor, obscured the meaning of the term “independent film” (Sony Pictures Classics, which only distributes existing films, is perhaps the only subsidiary arm of a major studio whose releases are actually independent of the system itself). This fact is simply one that has been accepted for quite some time in the narrative of small-scale American (or imported) filmmaking. Especially in the case of Fox Searchlight, whose opening banner distinguishes itself from the major in variation on name only, subsidiaries of the majors can hardly even be argued as “tricking” audiences into […]

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Jim Jarmusch is a polarizing figure among the film-going public. His films are all a little off the beaten path, a little bit inaccessible to general audiences, and usually some people end up loving them and some people end up hating them. I think what everybody can agree upon though, is that there are always several interesting things going on with every project that he takes. That’s why new reports that he is planning to helm a vampire movie have left me scratching my head a little. He’s making a vampire movie? Right in the middle of a time where every hack director who can find funding is making a vampire movie? That just doesn’t seem like Jarmusch’s bag. But still, despite all of that, I certainly can’t argue with the cast he’s compiling. This new vampire project is still untitled, but it’s set to star Tilda Swinton, Michael Fassbender, and Mia Wasikowska as the children of the night. Those are some good vampires. Also, the extremely British John Hurt has been cast in an undisclosed feature role. I don’t know about you, but if I was going to be casting a distinguished gentleman like John Hurt in my new vampire film you better believe it would probably be as some grizzled old vampire hunter. In addition to the casting news, Jarmusch let a little bit slip about the setting by calling the film a, “crypto-vampire love story, set against the romantic desolation of Detroit and Tangiers.” Say what you […]

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Meek, introverted accountant William Blake (Johnny Depp) journeys West from Cleveland to the mysterious town of Machine where he’s been promised a job, only to find that the job is taken and that the company owner, John Dickinson (Robert Mitchum), is a gun-toting sociopath who listens to nobody.

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This week’s Culture Warrior says that cinema is the ultimate form of art. And it has nothing to do with ‘Avatar.’ Seriously, it doesn’t.

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Landon takes a look at Jim Jarmusch’s new film and other meaningless movies that are meaningless.

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To paraphrase my third favorite dead playwright, The Limits Of Control is a tale told by an idiot, full of pubic mound and Murray, signifying nothing.

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Since I quit sniffing baboon blood to get high, the only thing I have left that’s on par is this new trailer for Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control. It seems fairly par for the course considering the filmmaker’s track record.

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