Tom Waits is down and out in Jarmusch’s early film Down By Law.
Some directors make movies; some create a sensibility. Jim Jarmusch is the second kind of director.
Emerging from Manhattan's DIY arts community in the early 80s, Jarmusch crystallized the American indie cinema movement in Permanent Vacation, Stranger Than Paradise and Down By Law - proto-slacker cinema, really, its characters defined by hipness and a sort of slow-witted grace.
All three films screen this weekend, and they're still delightful. Jarmusch's early films give you the sense that they've happened by accident: some people were doing some stuff, or not doing anything at all, and this guy showed up with a camera. (Yes, Roberto Benigni is in some of them, but he's tolerable.)
As artists like Hal Hartley and Richard Linklater emerged to assume the low-budget mantle, Jarmusch got more ambitious, exploring interlocking stories in Mystery Train and five separate but simultaneous narratives in Night On Earth. A kinship with Neil Young led to the score for the magnificent Dead Man, that movie where Johnny Depp drifts through the Old West, and the perverse concert movie Year Of The Horse - shot on Super 8 for the grungiest experience possible.
Further highlights include the delightful sketch comedy Coffee And Cigarettes, featuring priceless conversations between Steve Coogan and Alfred Molina, Tom Waits and Iggy Pop, and Bill Murray and Wu-Tang members the GZA and RZA, among others, and the exquisite drama Broken Flowers, in which Murray plays an aging Lothario on a road trip to find the son he didn't know he had.
And then there's last year's Only Lovers Left Alive, a sultry junkie-vampire romance in which age-old couple Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston swan around being so totally over the living.
It's a nice metaphor for Jarmusch himself, who's still styling after all these years.
A parallel series of Jarmusch's partner Sara Driver's films are also on the big screen this weekend. Read our Q&A here.