The besties review
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Allie was definitely giving off some Holden Caulfield vibes in this one.
Not sure what it was about Permanent Vacation, but I found it a bit too heady and meditative for my taste. I know that I generally like quieter films, but this felt more underdeveloped than purposefully obstuse. Still, it had its moments: the sax score from John Lurie was great and there’s a scene at a movie theater that has a killer monologue performed by the great Frankie Faison. While I didn’t love it, I can appreciate Permanent Vacation as a debut that contains what I presume will be the “seeds” of Jarmusch’s later work.
Stranger Than Paradise
There are a lot of similarities between this movie and Permanent Vacation: the shooting style, the protagonists, the attitude. But Stranger Than Paradise is an improvement on all fronts. John Lurie, Eszter Balint and Richard Edson are a memorable trio and the vignette editing style, characterized by a bit of black in between each shot, really worked for me.
Down by Law
“Good evening. Buzz off to everybody. Oh, thank you. Buzz off to you too. Oh, it’s a pleasure. Thank you.”
This is a really special film. Probably my favorite of Jarmusch’s that I’ve seen. Tom Waits, John Lurie and Roberto Benigni are utterly perfect. Robby Müller’s cinematography is gorgeous. Jarmusch’s script is a poem. It’s crazy to me that I had never heard of this movie before. It is certainly one of the best (if not the best) prison break movie I've ever seen. I also had the pleasure of watching some of the Criterion extras, like the Cannes press conference from 1986, which was beyond awkward. I mean, holy shit— every question was terrible and one person told Jim Jarmusch that she fell asleep during the film.
P.S. I think if we all tried to be a little more like Bob, the world would be a much better place.
The first of Jarmusch's several "anthology" films, and a rather good one. My only real complaint is that I found myself growing less interested as the film progressed. For me, "Far from Yokohama" was fantastic, "A Ghost" was really good, and "Lost in Space" was just alright. But even though I wasn't totally enthralled by all three vignettes, I thought Jarmusch did a great job of weaving them together in a way that made the entire film feel more consequential than any one part.
P.S. While I watched this, my mom sat down and watched the "Far from Yokohama" portion with me. When she got up to go back to work, this is the conversation that followed:
Mom: Where'd you find this?
Me: Criterion Channel.
Mom: Is this supposed to be critically acclaimed?
Mom: ... ... It's weird, Dave.
Night on Earth
For me, Night on Earth improves upon the “anthology style” that Jarmusch first introduced us to in Mystery Train. I think with five shorter vignettes and a more compelling conceit (five taxi drivers, five cities, one night), this movie stands out as one of his best (that I’ve seen). I’ll definitely have to watch it at least one more time to fully absorb the connections between the stories, but for a first watch I am very impressed.
I’m sad that my first exploration into Jarmusch is over, but I expect to tackle the latter half of his filmography (most likely, Dead Man, Ghost Dog, Coffee and Cigarettes, Broken Flowers, and Only Lovers Left Alive) very soon!
What is 5 Film Film Festival (5FFF)?
In short, 5 Film Film Festival is an ongoing personal project to help me watch more classic films. For each mini “festival,” I will choose a random theme (be it a genre, actor, director, etc.) and curate five movies that fit that theme to watch for the first time. When I started this journey, I posted my brief, unpolished thoughts on Letterboxd. I like this more informal, less pretentious mode of watching older movies, so as I begin documenting the project here on the site, don’t expect a lot of in-depth analysis— every “review” will read more like a “first reaction.”
If you’re like me, and you have more than a few blind spots in your cinematic knowledge, then consider joining me on this lifelong endeavor. Watch along, recommend themes, and organize some mini festivals of your own!