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The Films Of Jim Jarmusch: A Retrospective

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist July 17, 2012 at 11:09AM

There's no one in independent film quite like Jim Jarmusch, one of American cinema's most idiosyncratic filmmakers. Born to Episcopalian parents in Ohio in 1953, the director fell in love with B-movie double bills his mother left him in as a child, and fell into counter-culture arthouse movies in his teens. The director studied Journalism at Northwestern before dropping out and studying literature at Columbia, moving to Paris for ten months and then returning and applying to the film school at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, where he worked under legendary "Rebel Without A Cause" director Nicholas Ray, who encouraged the filmmaker's unique, particular approach.
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Broken Flowers
"Broken Flowers" (2005)
As an aging lothario, time moves slowly for Bill Murray’s Don Johnston. Now limited to spending time alone, he wastes his days bs’ing with neighborhood snoop Winston (Jeffrey Wright) while lounging in an unglamorous, Murray-ian sweatsuit ensemble. A fateful letter arrives on his doorstep, notifying him of two surprises: he’s a father, and the son he never knew is coming for him. With the sender unknown, Don embarks on a panicked road trip, arriving at the doorsteps of each significant past lover without once mentioning the letter. This game of emotional Russian Roulette takes its toll on the withdrawn protagonist as each futile visit slowly reveals the depths of his loneliness and the debris left behind by his libidinous recklessness, the uncovering of the biological clock, purposely buried underneath crumpled sheets. While there’s a certain unlikelihood in Murray bedding the likes of Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange and even a trailer-parked Tilda Swinton, the film boasts an array of wonderfully vibrant moments, both touching and painful, as past lovers reconnect, smiling and ignoring the mutually inflicted scars they wear on their sleeves. Jarmusch patterns his film as something of an emotional travelogue, Johnston retracing his steps, seeing the blood left behind in his footprints, and ultimately reaching the truth behind Hollywood’s popular “damaged ladykiller” persona. [B+]

The Limits Of Control
"The Limits Of Control" (2009)
An opaque, surrealist, but striking assassin film, Jarmusch’s take on the hitman man genre is sort of like what would happen if you merge Jean-Pierre Melville’s largely silent and still “Le Samourai” with the reality loops of Alain Renais’Last Year At Marienband.” Featuring an incredible international cast -- Gael Garcia Bernal, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Bill Murray, Palestinian actress Hiam Abbas, Paz de la Huerta, French actor Alex Descas (from Claire Denis’ “35 Shots of Rum”), Japanese actress Youki Kudoh and more -- Jarmusch’s “The Limits of Control” centers on a mysterious loner and assassin (Jarmusch regular Isaach De Bankolé) hired to kill a U.S. businessman in the heart of Spain. But this is no ordinary killer. Possessing a meditative stillness and a rigid code of discipline (no phones, sex or guns), using his imagination, Bankolé’s lone man killer bends the rules of subjective reality, which helps him transcend simple matters of physics, time and space. Along the way, he travels to Madrid and Sevilla, picking up clues and paradoxes from fellow agents, but lurking in the shadows are other imaginative killers who are setting up a double cross. Or at least, that’s one way to read the film. Set to a gorgeously droning wall of ambient noise-metal, this oblique anti-thriller isn’t an easy film to penetrate, but its odd humor and hypnotic, swirling mood is one of the most arresting head trips of Jarmusch’s career, and one that resonates far and deep into the psyche. [A-]

- Oliver Lyttelton, Rodrigo Perez, Gabe Toro, Mark Zhuravsky, Drew Taylor, Kevin Jagernauth

This article is related to: Jim Jarmusch, Features, The Essentials


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