“Independent... I’m so sick of that word. Anyone who makes a film that is the film they want to make, and it is not defined by marketing analysis or a commercial enterprise, is independent.” Starting out with $15,000 and some 16mm footage handed to him by director Wim Wenders, film-school grad Jim Jarmusch became one of American cinema’s most intelligent, original and influential indie (whisper it) filmmakers.
Shot loose and bold, his debut Permanent Vacation sees a young jazz fan (Chris Parker) floating between strange characters on the New York streets. It’s the first of his episodic, dreamy comedies in which wandering slacker-heroes drift by on themes of urban dislocation. The sharpest example of Jarmusch’s warm, dry wit and gentle absurdism is Cannes prize-winner Stranger Than Paradise. Lounge Lizard John Lurie is the hipster NY layabout searching for adventure – but only after a strange loneliness gatecrashes his life.
Lurie was back again for Down By Law, banged up in a New Orleans jail with tough guy Tom Waits and irritatingly optimistic Italian Roberto Benigni. Very cool, very funny and packing a poignant left-hook, this irresistible monochrome fairytale meshes prison-break flick, noir thriller and comedy. Better still, while Stranger Than Paradise only packs 14 minutes of vintage Making Of footage, Down By Law boasts a great interview with ace DoP Robby Müller, deleted scenes, an alternative ending and phone conversations between Jim and the cast.