Jim Jarmusch – A Consumate Filmmaker
The vampire genre features in the Film Culture course with a special reference – and I make no apology for this – to Jim Jarmusch’s wonderful 2013 classic, Only Lovers Left Alive. My affection for Jarmusch’s work is partly due to my sense of a kindred spirit; he worked as a sound recordist in the eighties as I did. There, sadly for me, the similarity ends. Musician, composer, editor, actor, camera operator, screenwriter and director, Jarmusch’s talents are many and with his latest film, Paterson, I am, yet again, in a swoon.
It is easy to forget that the USA is home to a robust and hugely successful independent film community of which Jarmusch is, in my humble opinion, arguably its most talented contributor. Too often we are swamped by a vision of American culture entirely mediated by Hollywood. In Paterson we become absorbed in a perspective of American culture which serves to remind us in these distracted times that small-town USA can be home to characters and scenarios that inspire a sense of wonder, love, humanity and simplicity. Yes, Paterson is fiction, but it is also a deeply personal film which hums with the great drivers in Jarmusch’s life and work; poetry, music, and the power of a loving and supportive relationship in nurturing and enriching creativity.
Just how much of Jarmusch lives in the character of Paterson maybe warrants further discourse. Not of great interest to me however. More significant is the profound warmth, sincerity and honesty in the development of character his writing and directing brings. This is one fabulously written movie and should be an essential reference for any budding screenwriter. Filmmaking is a craft and the quality of craftsmanship on display here is a reinforcement of a great American social and cultural reality – the worth of craftsmanship and the ability to physically create things of both utilitarian and aesthetic worth. After all, it was the founding fathers and early settlers 400 years ago who arrived with the ethos of self-sufficiency and practical skills – qualities which have been embedded in American culture even until today. One can see this in the film. Paterson’s den in the basement where he writes is a space full of shelves lined with identical tins labelled with the necessities for DIY. His wife/partner, Laura played by the talented and lovely Golshifteh Farahini is endlessly imaginative in her binary black and white creative splurges, from painting the curtains to baking cupcakes and playing her harlequin guitar – practical artistry, another great American trait. Iranian born, her performance in the 2009 Iranian thriller, directed by Asghar Farhadi, About Elly, is one that should be on anyone’s ‘Must Watch’ list too.
I watched Paterson in a packed theatre. As the final scene finished and the credits started to roll the audience sat in complete silence. We were literally speechless. Quiet, full of personal thoughts and reflections, we filed out, emotionally fulfilled. Such moments do not happen often, but when they do one can be glad to have been part of the crowd.
And as if one JJ movie this year was not enough to feed the soul, we have his homage to the Stooges, Gimme Danger, released at the same time as Paterson, to enjoy. Jarmusch, with his uninhibited love and enthusiasm for the band and its colourful leader, Iggy Pop, offers an affectionate and well-crafted argument that this was the greatest band of all time. On this I take issue, but he again demonstrates his consummate skill as a cinematic craftsman working with archive and animation. Now, this duo makes a great double bill.