Tag Archives: Jim Jarmusch

Mystery Train (1989, Jim Jarmusch)

Mystery Train is a comedy. It’s many other things–an examination and comparison of various kinds of differentness–but it’s also a very funny comedy. In fact, Jarmusch keeps characters around for nothing else. Train is the interconnected story of seven people (across three chapters) all culminating at a Memphis hotel. Cinqué Lee is the suffering bellboy, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins is the far more chill clerk. Hawkins and Lee get some great scenes together; both actors separately build their performances and then Jarmusch sits them next to each other. It greats a wonderful energy.

With the exception of the first story–which has Nagase Masatoshi and Kudô Yûki as Japanese tourists obsessed with classic rock–all of the characters come defined. Since Train is interconnected and set in the same locations at different times of one day, Jarmusch occasionally introduces characters early and momentarily, but distinctively enough to jump start their character development.

Or, in the case of Joe Strummer’s British emigre, he gets introduced in dialogue.

The first two parts of the film are the most independent. Nagase and Kudô have their own story arc going separate from the location; ditto for Nicoletta Braschi (as an Italian on an unplanned layover) in the second part. When Elizabeth Bracco shows up (halfway through the film), Jarmusch starts revealing how things might come together. And it’s great. What is background in the first and second stories is foreground in the third.

Great acting. Gorgeous photography from Robby Müller.

Train is singular.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch; director of photography, Robby Müller; edited by Melody London; music by John Lurie; production designer, Dan Bishop; produced by Jim Stark; released by Orion Classics.

Starring Kudô Yûki (Mitsuko), Nagase Masatoshi (Jun), Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (Night Clerk), Cinqué Lee (Bellboy), Nicoletta Braschi (Luisa), Elizabeth Bracco (Dee Dee), Joe Strummer (Johnny), Rick Aviles (Will Robinson), Steve Buscemi (Charlie), Tom Noonan (Man in Arcade Diner), Vondie Curtis-Hall (Ed), Rufus Thomas (Man in Station) and Tom Waits (Radio D.J).


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Coffee and Cigarettes II (1989, Jim Jarmusch)

Coffee and Cigarettes II stars twins Cinqué Lee and Joie Lee as twins having coffee in Memphis. Why are they in Memphis? They don’t know, but it seems like it’s Cinqué’s fault. Jarmusch le’s the twins bicker though most of the short, which is funny enough but then there’s Steve Buscemi too.

Buscemi’s playing the annoying (local) waiter. His Tennessee accent is shaky but his rant about Elvis is awesome. Cigarettes feels tailor-made for a film class, with white Buscemi physically separating the black Lee twins. The banter could also be plotted as to how it goes back and forth.

But spending too much time on Jarmusch’s process distracts from the short. The twins are great–particularly Joie–and the short’s rather a fun time.

There are some outstanding shots too, which Jarmusch uses both for comic relief and narrative pacing. Cigarettes is a fabulous use of eight minutes.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch; director of photography, Robby Müller; edited by Melody London; produced by Rudd Simmons and Jim Stark.

Starring Joie Lee (Good Twin), Cinqué Lee (Evil Twin) and Steve Buscemi (Danny the waiter).


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Coffee and Cigarettes (1986, Jim Jarmusch)

Technically, Coffee and Cigarettes is most impressive at the beginning. The short’s simple–Steven Wright meets Roberto Benigni for coffee. When Benigni makes room for Wright, Jarmusch’s handling of the process is amazing. It’s a quick series of shots; beautifully composed and edited together.

As for the rest of the short, it’s a fine diversion but… I guess cooler is the right word. It’s cooler than it is good. Wright’s dialogue could be a stand-up monologue, only Benigni gleefully interrupts him. The best moment is when Benigni says he doesn’t understand what Wright’s saying. Watching Benigni–and hearing his responses–it’s impossible not to wonder if he understands what’s going on. Finding out he doesn’t makes it even better,

Jarmusch lets the short run out instead of following through with the gently absurdist ending, which is too bad.

Still, Coffee and Cigarettes is a great use of five minutes.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Jim Jarmusch; written by Jarmusch, Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright; director of photography, Tom DiCillo; edited by Melody London; produced by Jim Stark.

Starring Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright.


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The Limits of Control (2009, Jim Jarmusch)

Someone–Ebert maybe–is going to laud The Limits of Control. The nicest thing one can really say about it is it isn’t abjectly terrible. There aren’t many bad performances (Tilda Swinton’s lame and Bill Murray’s awful and Isaach De Bankolé is weak when he has more lines than the Terminator) and Jarmusch really does know how to frame a shot. But it’s a piece of malarky. It’s supposed to come off as subversive and anti-American in the end–I can’t really explain how without spoiling–and instead it just comes off as silly. You want to see sublime, subversive commentary on American foreign policy, read Warren Ellis’s Crécy. At its best, Limits of Control is obvious… at its worst, well, to put it bluntly, Jarmusch is full of shit.

Jarmusch has always been–often been–an international filmmaker. Limits of Control is a fine example. Set in Spain with an African leading man, there are Mexican actors, British, American, Spanish, probably a French actor in there somewhere… Jarmusch’s has got some great plays with language. But this exotic cast list is mostly just a diversion. It’s to make the audience feel like he or she is watching something, well, art house.

The most striking success of Limits of Control is its commentary on the spy thriller genre in general. It owes a lot to Hitchcock’s 1930s British thrillers, with the MacGuffin somewhat extracted from the film. The result is a boring two hours of people acting suspiciously with coincidence after coincidence occurring without a thread to tie them. So what. Jarmusch could have cut the pay-off scenes out of The Lady Vanishes and he’d get a similar effect. Well, maybe not The Lady Vanishes because so much of it relies on chemistry and Limits of Control has none. It’s like Jarmusch knew he’d have to do something to get people–critics–to talk about his film, so he made Paz de la Huerta take off her clothes for every scene. What’s the effect? Explicit nudity’s boring. Wow, good one. It’s not like Paul Verhoeven didn’t make explicit nudity boring fifteen years ago.

At times it seems like Jarmusch is going somewhere. Like it’s going to be The Courier’s Tragedy or something. It never is. In fact, the best way to describe The Limits of Control is The Courier’s Tragedy without the point. It’s Jarmusch spinning his wheels until the end–the big reveal in The Limits of Control is, literally, a pin.

Then some of it slowly starts to make sense. But it’s dumb, so who cares?

John Hurt’s great. Jean-François Stévenin has a good small role. de la Huerta isn’t bad. When he’s not talking De Bankolé is great.

I think Jarmusch was going for some kind of mystical realism with the film too.

He fails.

Oh, and how did he misuse Christopher Doyle? The colors are all flat and dead.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch; director of photography, Christopher Doyle; edited by Jay Rabinowitz; music by Boris; production designer, Eugenio Caballero; produced by Gretchen McGowan and Stacey E. Smith; released by Focus Features.

Starring Isaach De Bankolé (Lone Man), Alex Descas (Creole), Jean-François Stévenin (French), Óscar Jaenada (Waiter), Luis Tosar (Violin), Paz de la Huerta (Nude), Tilda Swinton (Blonde), Youki Kudoh (Molecules), John Hurt (Guitar), Gael García Bernal (Mexican), Hiam Abbass (Driver) and Bill Murray (American).


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