Jim Jarmusch, aside from being a brilliant filmmaker, is some kind of wizard. I say this because his ability to take the banal elements of everyday life and still manage to make them curious and engaging to watch is a pretty remarkable talent. It is particularly his representation of the 'lone wolf', his solitary figures who roam and revel in the magic of the mundane that defines him as one of the most acclaimed contemporary art house directors operating today.
His fascination with the outsider, be it a solitary hitman, centuries-old vampires, prisoners, mystics and murderers is channeled through humor, tragedy and the absurd. With this, his films become a study of the interior mindscape and social alienation.
Let's take a look at five examples of his leading loners.
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
The most recent offering from the director comes in the form of Only Lovers Left Alive. It's a darkly comedic romance that tells the story of a vampiric couple named Adam and Eve ( and , respectively) who have stalked the earth for centuries. Adam is a tortured musician hellbent on living as a recluse in the abandoned ruins of Detroit, endlessly contemplating suicide. Eve, however, lives in Tangier, and being the more effervescent of the two, comes to her lover's aid when she discovers that he is deeply troubled.
The tongue-in-cheek portrayal of two self-indulgent bohemian vampires even sees them hanging with Shakespeare's contemporary Christopher Marlowe ()- who also happens to be their dealer... of blood. To avoid spoilers, all you need to know is that this film has an incredible soundtrack featuring Jarmusch's own band SQÜRL, first class acting and a spectacular setting making this film a must see.
Jarmusch's self-professed 'psychedelic Western' with a soul-scarring score by Neil Young tells the tale of William Blake (), a young man who leaves home in order to become a bookkeeper. Upon his arrival, the penniless Blake finds the position is no longer available and from there on, becomes progressively more lucked-out. He befriends another social pariah, an American Indian () called Nobody who is convinced that Blake is the eponymous 18th century Romantic poet and pledges to take him back to the spirit world. As you may have gathered, the film is another portrayal of hardships endured when living on the margins of society, and yet regardless of this, you still catch yourself chuckling at its sly absurdity.
The Limits of Control (2009)
Here, the outsider is a hitman simply referred to as 'Lone Man' (Isaach de Bankolé) whose name we only learn when the end credits roll. Lone Man is set upon a mission by two Frenchmen who begin their conversation with, "You don't speak Spanish, right?" which, as it transpires, is a code and motif throughout the film. It is said each time he meets with a mysterious stranger who delivers him a matchbox which leads him to his next destination. A solitary figure, whom we know nothing about apart from 'his few laconic statements and behavior' (Guardian), is a man of ritual and restraint. Naturally, the old favorites, Tilda Swinton and John Hurt, make an appearance, as well as and , who plays 'the (spectral) American'.
Down By Law (1986)
Prison drama Down by Law is more than anything else, a modern day portrait of reprobates and chance injustice, set to the backdrop of contemporary New Orleans. The black satire tells the story of three men locked up in a Louisiana jail and their subsequent escape. Jarmusch's idiosyncratic glacial style- with the meandering narratives and pauses- often create a still life of the scene in which it depicts. The iconic lead performances by , and are what give power to the intentional mediocrity of the films style and is- as you would expect- soundtracked by the incredibly suave . Enough said.
Ghostdog: The Way of the Samarai (1999)
The titular role in Ghost Dog, played by , traces a trained killer and solitary dweller of an old loft which he shares with carrier pigeons used to communicate with his Mafioso employer. With great dedication, he abides by the way of the samurai and what keeps him from entire reclusivity are his two friends: an amiable French-speaking ice-cream salesman Raymond () and a young girl called Pearline (Camille Winbush). The film, which has an awesome soundtrack from RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan creates a juxtaposition which is equally comic and absurd due to the austere belief system to which he subscribes.
's Only Lovers Left Alive will be released in the USA on April 11. 2014.