Features

Jim Jarmusch, Rock and Roll Director

[Dead_Man: Jarmisch_2.06]

There's a reason he features the likes of Tom
Waits and Screamin' Jay Hawkins in his
films--at heart, the man who brought you
Mystery Train and Down by Law
is a rockstar.


By Jennie Yabroff
Photos by Christine Parry

Usually when people talk about winding up in the wrong career, they're wearing a suit and tie and staring into the remains of their gin and tonic. They slur something about how they shoulda been a rock star; they were meant for greater rewards than those that befall an accountant; their tormented artistic souls are just wilting under the fluorescent office lights, and the air conditioning in their cubicle is wreaking havoc with their rock and roll hair. It's easy to understand their misery--no one wants to come to terms with the fact that they're terminally un-cool.

And yet, director Jim Jarmusch, who has quite possibly never worn a suit in his life, shares their plight. "I think something in my soul keeps telling me I'm supposed to be a musician," the director confesses, on tour to promote his latest film Dead Man. "What I envy is that musicians can pick up an instrument and just express themselves. Film is so painstaking, it's so long, and it's such a process, that once you get on the train, you can't get off. You gotta ride it all the way. I feel like somewhere along the way I got re-routed."

He may be on a different track, but his train is definitely bound for glory. Jarmusch's films have won him a dedicated cult following. He induldges his love of music by making it a central theme in all of his films; in addition to featuring his close friends and musical icons like Tom Waits, John Lurie and Screaming Jay Hawkins, Jarmusch uses original scores to give his (mostly black and white) films color, texture, and depth. Waits' soundtrack for Mystery Train, Jarmusch's third film, lends a haunting, brooding quality that characterizes the director's work.

"Music is the purest form of expression," he says, "the most natural form of expression to its culture, and the easiest to invite other cultural influences into it." His films reflect this cultural mingling of musical influence: In Stranger than Paradise a Hungarian girl loves Screaming Jay Hawkins, while her American cousin find him unbearable, and in Mystery Train (which features Screaming Jay as a disgruntled hotel desk clerk) a teenaged Japanese couple make a pilgrimage to Memphis in search of Elvis' ghost. Really, it seems Jarmusch has little to complain about: by making such musically themed movies, he enjoys the best of both worlds.

[Dead_Man: Depp-gun]

Johnny Depp, now starring in Dead Man, is another one embracing both film and music.

Photo by Christine Parry

In fact, the director even looks like a rock star. Casually elegant in black jeans, black motorcycle boots, a dark blue long sleeved t-shirt, and of course the infamous white meringue of hair that makes him look like he's been shocked, Jarmusch has the confidence and grace of someone perpetually at ease in his surroundings, even a stuffy hotel room. Draping his tall thin frame over a chair and beautifully exhaling the last of his cigarette, Jarmusch is majestically cool, and disarmingly friendly.

Dead Man trailer (video excerpt) (5.98MB)





Young, Neil, "M4-Guitar" from Deadman Soundtrack
(45 second excerpt)
[Play Stereo MPEG] 1.13MB
[Play Mono MPEG] 564k
[Play Mono Ulaw] 375k
[Play RealAudio 28.8k] 28.8k
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