Jim Jarmusch Via Germany, Part 3

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

Having covered his often-unclassifiable early works and his middle period, we’ve now come to the point where we can address three of Jim Jarmusch’s most recent films. Each of them is a skewed take on a different classic genre; you have a romantic comedy where the romance has wilted, you have an achingly slow spy thriller, and you have a vampire story about the undead contemplating art and suicide.

Broken Flowers

This 2005 movie hails from that Lost In Translation period when Bill Murray was launching a second golden age of his career, profiting on the fact that whereas in his original prime he was great at Being Funny, as he aged he was getting better and better at Being Sad or Being Grumpy whilst still Being Funny, and that plays really well to the indie cinema crowd. Here, Murray plays Don Johnston, who through a fluke of nominative determinism has spent his adult life being a bit of a Don Juan (as other characters like to remind him). He kicks off his Being Sad early, as his current partner Sherry (Julie Delpy) is walking out on him as a result of his relationship goals being entirely too superficial.

We soon get a gear shift into Being Grumpy, interspersed with Being Sad and, as always, injected with Being Funny and also, given the character’s established interests, Being Horny. Don receives in the post a mysterious, unsigned letter, purporting to be from a partner of his from around 20 years ago. The letter claims that the author became pregnant by Don and gave birth to a son shortly after the end of their relationship, and that the lad, now just shy of 19 years old, has gone on a cross-country road trip whose purpose he’s being closed-mouthed about but could well be an attempt to track down Don.

Continue reading “Jim Jarmusch Via Germany, Part 3”

Jim Jarmusch Via Germany, Part 2

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

In the previous article in this miniseries, I covered (through the medium of a Germany-exclusive blu-ray boxed set) Jarmusch’s early career up to Dead Man. That movie benefitted in part from an excellent country-industrial soundtrack by Neil Young, so it’s only fitting that Jarmusch would return the favour with a project focused on Young himself…

Year of the Horse

This is a documentary about Neil Young and Crazy Horse which isn’t entirely of Jarmusch’s own making; specifically, it mixes footage shot by Jarmusch on Crazy Horse’s 1996 tour with backstage footage from Neil Young’s archives from 1986 and 1976, to offer a glimpse of the musicians in three different decades. In principle, this should be an exciting prospect, because that happens to catch three very important but distinct periods in the group’s career. (It’s important to remember that Crazy Horse isn’t so much Neil Young’s backing band as it is an independent entity that Neil Young happens to play with regularly – they have made Neil-less releases, and on the documentary Neil introduces himself as the “guitarist with Crazy Horse” rather than the band leader or a solo artist or anything like that.)

To be specific, 1976 saw Neil at the height of his creative powers (and his closest physical resemblance to Neil from The Young Ones); the previous year had seen him release the epochal albums Zuma and Tonight’s the Night, the latter of which was recorded in 1973 as a response to the death by heroin overdose of Crazy Horse lead guitarist Danny Whitten and and Bruce Berry, one of Neil’s roadies. The two albums couldn’t be more different – Tonight’s the Night is the saddest entry in Neil’s sorrowful “Ditch Trilogy” along with Time Fades Away and On the Beach – whilst Zuma found him moving beyond the trilogy with a more tonally varied release and a new lease of energy.

Continue reading “Jim Jarmusch Via Germany, Part 2”

Jim Jarmusch Via Germany, Part 1

This article was originally published on Ferretbrain. I’ve backdated it to its original Ferretbrain publication date but it may have been edited and amended since its original appearance.

If you like arthouse cinema – or even cinema which veers fashionably close to arthouse but which scratches the sides of the mainstream here and there – you probably run into Jim Jarmusch at some point, the man having more or less never released a film which wasn’t at least interestingly ambitious.

At the same time, getting a high-quality collection of his work can, depending on what market you’re in, be a pain. For instance, one of my favourite films of his is Dead Man, and – at least the last time I looked – you just couldn’t get a blu-ray of it in the UK.

After some poking about, however, I found Jim Jarmusch: the Complete Collection, a German release of all his movies from his debut, Permanent Vacation, to 2013’s Only Lovers Left Alive, on blu-ray (with the exception of Year of the Horse, which is provided on DVD). What I didn’t account for was the fact that the German blu-rays would not necessarily have the full range of subtitles on; sure, the actual original English-language soundtracks were all present and correct, but Jarmusch’s movies are often multi-lingual, and the absence of English subtitles for segments of non-English dialogue could sometimes be a problem.

On the whole, I think the set was still worth the money – for most of the movies, the subtitle issue is not too bad, especially if you understand a few scraps of German. And there’s few other ways to get a really complete overview of the man’s work.

Continue reading “Jim Jarmusch Via Germany, Part 1”