Jim Jarmusch is an American filmmaking legend. His 1984 film Stranger Than Paradise altered the course of independent cinema by carving a new path for avante-garde and low budget filmmakers.
Stranger Than Paradise is a deadpan, slow-moving comedy that recounts the journey of three disillusioned youths from New York to Cleveland to Florida. I remember seeing the film when it first came out and saying to a friend, "Nothing happens but I can't get this movie out of my head." This is common of Jarmusch's films. He once said, "I'd rather make a movie about a guy walking his dog than about the emperor of China."
Jarmusch’s next film Down By Law introduced Roberto Benigni (Life Is Beautiful) to American audiences. Down By Law marked the first of five collaborations with noted cinematographer Robby Muller. Jarmusch's next two films--Mystery Train and Night On Earth--experimented with parallel narratives, multiple stories connected by theme rather than plot.
One of Jarmusch's favorite devices is to have a foreigner speaking in a native tongue while others struggle to understand. We see this with Aunt Lotte in Stranger Than Paradise, Benigni in Down By Law, the East German cab driver in Night On Earth and the Haitian ice cream man in Ghost Dog. Jarmusch loves telling stories about outsiders who dwell on the fringes of society. Tom Waits observed of Jarmusch: "Jim went gray when he was 15...As a result, he always felt like an immigrant...a benign, fascinated foreigner. All his films are about that."
Music is crucial to Jarmusch's storytelling. His films have a unique vibe, slightly out of tune with a heavy reliance on music to invoke tone. Whether it's John Lurie's discordant jazz for Down By Law, Neil Young's sonic guitarscape for Dead Man or Mulatu Astatke's Ethio-jazz rhythms for Broken Flowers, Jarmusch's soundtracks are always evocative and memorable.
Jarmusch himself is a musician. He played guitar for the early 80's band The Del Byzanteens and he recently completed an album with Dutch composer Jozef Van Wissem. Jarmusch loves to feature musicians as actors in his films. These include Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, Joe Strummer, John Lurie, RZA, Jack & Meg White and Screaming Jay Hawkins.
Jarmusch is currently directing a romantic vampire film called Only Lovers Left Alive. He is also working on a documentary about Iggy Pop and the Stooges as well as an experimental opera about Nikola Tesla. Jarmusch is the founding member of the tongue-in-cheek 'semi-secret' society called the Sons of Lee Marvin. Members supposedly include Tom Waits, John Lurie, Iggy Pop, Josh Brolin, Neil Young and Nick Cave. The qualification for membership is that you possess a passing resemblance or you plausibly look like a son of actor Lee Marvin. (woodcuttingfool.blogspot.com)