The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Why in hell are you going to Budapest?

The biggest, baddest, and perhaps the best Jim Jarmusch film is his 1984 production of Stranger Than Paradise, a black-and-white montage of American life with only sixty-seven total shots. It is an important film. In 2002, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. In a sense, it marked a high water mark for Jarmusch who has struggled to top it ever since.

Like most of Jarmusch’s films, the plot is minimal. A young Hungarian woman (Eszter Balint) flies to New York and stays for a few days with her cousin (John Lurie) before moving on the Cleveland to stay with her aunt. On a whim, the cousin and his buddy drive to Cleveland, hang out for a few days, and then drive with the young woman to Florida, where they lose their money at the dog races. Stranger Than Paradise is a slice of life with no sex, lots of inane conversation, and gorgeous shots of the most dismal spots in New York City, Cleveland, Florida, and the freeways in between. In other words, life at its most mundane.

Jarmusch laughs at his characters all the way through the film. He seems to be saying, “You guys think you’re so hip, when you’re actually lost and clueless.” He saves his biggest joke for the end, when the cousin mistakenly flies to Budapest thinking he’s following the young woman.

November 21, 2009   Comments Off on Why in hell are you going to Budapest?

No vale nada

The entry entitled “Ghost Dog” below may seem like a poem, but it’s actually a review of Jim Jarmusch’s latest film, The Limits of Control, another in a series of beautiful, empty pieces by the auteur signifying nothing. Of course, that is the whole point. The message isn’t conveyed by the film, it is embedded in it. Luckily, Jarmusch has a cult following (I number myself among them), otherwise, he would have to fall back on his music. So, it only seemed natural to write my review of his elliptic, repetitive film as a garbled poem.

November 16, 2009   Comments Off on No vale nada

Ghost Dog

Brian (our redoubtable bus driver and passionate lover of films) and I debated the relative merits of Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai on our trip to Dublin. Tongue in cheek, Brian said that he and his brother recommend it to all of their friends, trying to get them to waste their money by renting it. He seemed to think that nothing happened in it. I, of course, loved the film, and couldn’t believe he was saying such unforgivable things about a great movie. Anything directed by Jarmusch and starring Forest Whitaker would have to be good. When I mentioned that I had eagerly awaited its availability and then had seen it four times, Brian looked at me as if I might be pulling his leg. But, of course, Americans see the world in black and white and don’t have senses of humor, so he wasn’t sure. Then, I told him there was another great film by Jarmusch, starring Johnny Depp which he ought to see, Dead Man, an action-packed western that was not to be missed. He said he liked Depp and looked as if he might be tempted. I can only hope he’s rented it so we can discuss it when next we meet.

January 29, 2008   Comments Off on Ghost Dog