Down By Law made a lot more than one would think.
Really adore everything Mike and Robert have said on here. Even though I haven’t seen Dead Man, yet. My experience with Limits of Control, though tells me that Jarmusch should stay away from allegorically weighted works. That film is so much easier than any of his first three features.
Well let’s put it this way, I like Jarmusch’s movies but I don’t connect to them the same way I do to movies by other directors. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t get any respect from me though.
As for Dead Man, it was slow in parts but in the end I liked the feeling of it. I wasn’t reading into it for symbolism but was just trying to capture what he was showing me intuitively, and in that sense, I got it. Honestly I can’t really get into analyzing film down to micro units, if I’m not clearly comprehending what I’m watching at that moment I try to turn off my brain and feel it, you know like Luke Skywalker feeling the force in his blind exercise with his light saber in the first Star Wars… lol
And I liked what I felt, and what the movie communicated to me that was not of a cerebral nature.
Mr. P, all of Jarmusch’s movies have plots. There was certainly nothing plotless about Down By Law. It was an escape film in every sense of the word. What makes it so memorable is the way Lurie, Waits and Begnini so perfectly play off each other during the course of action. Stranger than Paradise similarly had a plot, with a number of wonderful turns so that the viewer didn’t quite know where Jarmusch would take you next. The ending was priceless.
Dead Man does not represent any significant departure here. Blake is similarly escaping, but the journey takes on a more metaphysical quality in his intrepid guide Nobody, as the native sage prepares him for his final journey. Actually, there is a lot of symbolism in Dead Man to think about it, but what makes the movie work is that it follows a clear and coherent series of action, with some unexpected turns along the way, but you pretty much know Blake’s fate from the beginning.
I agree about that, knowing Blake’s fate from the beginning, Dzimas. The subject of preparing for death is fascinating. And the hoops he has to jump through to get there. Good point.
BTW, the reason Dead Man did so poorly at the BO was because Weinstein greatly limited its distribution when Jarmusch refused to back down on changes. Jarmusch also retained the proof,
“He released the film ‘with tongs’, as the critic J Hoberman put it. We had a problem because I sold him a finished film that was produced by my company, and then he wanted me to change it and I’d already signed a contract that he was distributing the film as is. He just bullied me, and I don’t like bullies.”
Wow, no kidding. That sucks.
“Limits of Control” made $1.4M. There’s no way it made less than half a million dollars. NYC alone probably brought in that much.
“he really does not like the pop culture obsessed society that North America has become.”
But all of his films show an obsession with pop culture and characters who love it. “Stranger” with its obsessive repetition of music, the viewing of sci-fi tv shows and kung fu movies. “Down by Law” with DJ culture and music and its evocation of genre films. “Mystery Train” with rock and hillbilly music, also sci-fi tv shows. “Night on Earth” with rock music. “Ghost Dog” with hip-hop culture, cartoons, and genre films. “Coffee and Cigarettes” with all of the above and then some.
Actually, the exception to the rule seems to be “Dead Man” in rejecting a utilization and celebration of pop culture. Perhaps his two newest films continue in this direction but again, I have yet to see them.
I’ve already said why I appreciated Dead Man in an earlier post – I dig Jarmusch’s sly defamiliarization of different aspects of American culture. He takes very little for granted as far as what the default foundational culture of America is, as opposed to most Euro-American art films anchored in a particular ‘universal’ white male subjectivity, and appreciates its profound diversity in a way that makes everyone (foreigners, natives, everything in between) appear equally exotic and strange. His engagement with racial and national others rarely (didn’t say never) feels contrived or condescending.
But I have to agree with @Odi about Dead Man at first NOT hitting me in a cerebral way. I felt an emotional connection to the journey that took place in that film especially at the end when I realized what it was really ‘about’ (yeah I was slow on the uptake there).
I would definitely consider Jarmusch to be amongst one of the more important contemporary new American filmmakers out there. That being said I don’t feel he is up against many. Don’t get me wrong. In their respective categories I have thoroughly enjoyed everything he has made from Stranger than Paradise – Broken Flowers. Jarmusch is a audiophile & I think with the exceptions of Permanent Vacation (which had good intensions) & Limits of Control, it has translated very well into his films. The rhythmic pacing of his films are exceptional.
Limits of control has to be one of the most insulting pictures I have seen in the past decade. It presents it’s self as some sort of pseudo intellectual essay that is really just a bitter hopeless and whiny rant about the filmmakers dislike for pop culture.
it’s self….pseudo intellectual
The significance of Jarmusch for me, was that he was gateway into auteurism. This makes sense, in that he is an American filmmaker working in America, but with a very European flair.
I’m Welsh and he was my starting point on my journey through the art of film. I need to watch Stranger than Paradise again.
I really like Jarmusch and think he’s really talented. My favorites include Dead Man, Broken Flowers, and Down By Law.
I think he might be more popular abroad, at least by BO.
I think like Woody Allen and Spike Lee (?) NYC box office is a good chunk of his profits, no?
Watching Mystery Train again – the first and last segments are the best. Youki Kudoh is adorable.
Here look it up – I’m gonna watch a film:
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I think “Night on Earth” is the better film in comparison to “Mystery Train”. Both have at least one flawed segment. “Mystery Train” is more adventurous structurally but “Night on Earth” has more lasting power because of its humanism, not to mention some brilliant acting.
Mystery Train doesn’t have humanism or brilliant acting? That’s news to me…
I think it’s by far the better of the two. Probably my favourite Jarmusch. The tiny moments with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Cinque Lee alone are worth the entirety of the film… but Nagase and Youki are astounding, too. I remember when I watched it I didn’t know how to get subtitles on those parts (because I’m stupid) so all I had to watch was their performances… They play the parts so well, there is so much expressiveness and range in their work on that film that there wasn’t a need for subtitles. The barrier of language melted away. Jarmusch is one of the few filmmakers that is able to do something like that.
Night on Earth seemed more uneven. Even hamfisted in parts. I think the first section is great and it’s downhill from there onward. Still a very good, film, though.
Saw Stranger than Paradise tonight, one of the films of his I hadn’t seen, and I liked it, but I’m still not sold on Jarmusch’s greatness as a director. I actually STP better than Dead Man, mostly for the Ava character. His movies are good for what they are, but they all feel kinda lightweight. I wish they had just a little more emotional content. It’s not even the lack of action that bugs me.
I think Jarmusch’s films start out great with their slow burn but lose fire as the third act rolls around and you start to realize they’re not adding up to much. I know this is the point. He makes films about “nothing,” about the journey rather than the destination, but I guess that doesn’t do it for me.
On the other hand, he’s a subtle observer of character. His dialogue always feels very natural, and I like the quietly expressive moments between his characters.
I feel like he’s a director for young guys who wear fedoras, carry around a worn copy of On the Road, and hang out in coffee shops dreaming of being a novelist.
“The barrier of language melted away. Jarmusch is one of the few filmmakers that is able to do something like that.”
Yay! I actually wrote something very similar to this in my thesis chapter about the film. Always good to know you’re not the only one that has a certain interpretation :)
I’ve only seen Down By Law out of all his films (about a year ago), and just thought it was an awesome film, one of my favourites. The way the characters attitudes clash with each other as they learn to accept each others inherant flaws is just so compelling, and the characters personalities are so fleshed out. The opening set-up sequences in which they all land in trouble, and that ending is just magic. To me its a film about acceptance, and striving to live and work together, even in situations you are ashamed to be in.
I’m a big fan. Always have been. My favorites are Down By Law and Broken Flowers.
I kinda liked Limits of Control too. Anybody got any love for that one?
Quetzalcoatl, I also thought Mystery Train was by far the most ambition of the two, but despite the wonderful moments that you mention it somehow didn’t come together for me. Night on Earth was little more than a vehicle for the actors he brought to the film. There was little or no script. From what I’ve read, he pretty much left it up to the actors to play out the situations as they saw fit. Despite its lack of structure (or maybe because of it), NoE was still very fun to watch. I agree the NY sequence was the best. The same idea didn’t work so well in Coffee and Cigarettes, maybe because of the total lack of action. Some of the sketches were funny, but most were terribly tedious.
I even prefer “Coffee and Cigarettes” to “Mystery Train”. Again, same deal. Some of the segments are flawed. More in total than any of the other two omnibus films (but to be fair, there’s more of them). But there are some sublime segments that raise the collective whole of the film to a very high level.
Post-Kyo, I’d love to hear more about your thesis chapter. Maybe you could share some interesting snippets with us for discussion?
Yes. Jim Jarmusch plays it “cool.”
And just like how the same criticism could be applied to Tarantino, those who try to work it like Jim Jarmusch ultimately fail. It’s easy to sit back and consider him one-tone, until you see all the different people who try to hit that note, and you realize how much else is built around it that it sounds just right. Goodness knows I’ve seen a lot of people trying to make movies like Jim Jarmusch, but there is only one Jim Jarmusch.
Where did you get the BO of LoC?
This site says @ the same as the first site I used:
The Limits of Control: Total Lifetime Grosses
Domestic: $426,688 21.7%
+ Foreign: $1,539,883 78.3%
= Worldwide: $1,966,571
The comparison to Coen Bros. is weak, Mike. They rarely employ symbolism with such a heavy hand. And if there is symbolism in a Coen Bros. movie, you can usually enjoy it without understanding what it means. In fact, the Coen Bros. have openly disregarded attempts to codify the meaning of objects – see their response to attempts to understand certain elements of Barton Fink.
One can enjoy Dead Man without understanding what it means but it is clearly supposed to mean something, in a way that hos best work isn’t.
’m with Nathan, regarding Dead Man. I’d like to request that those who love the film help me understand why that film is so good.
I get that the forum is a more personal way to understand how a variety of people feel about a film but I’m often baffled when people seem to pretend that the mountain of criticism that exists for a film doesn’t exist or is somehow tainted because it’s professional. If you want to understand why people think this film is great why not read Jonathan Rosenbaum’s book or review of the film. He’s a person, and a very astute one at that. I disagree with him but he, along with probably a few other critics mounts a very reasonable argument about why Dead Man is great.
This isn’t specifically meant to be a slam on your post Jazz. This has baffled me since I’ve been on the forum. If you don’t like Psycho, do you really think someone here is going to explain it’s greatness better than Robin Wood or Truffaut? I have my own issues with all these critics but they explain themselves at least as well as any Psycho or Dead Man fan here so where’s the confusion over why people like something come from?
When I slam one of the acclaimed works I’m saying that I fully understand why people, critics included, like something but that they’re wrong to like it in that way or for those reasons. If you’re still grappling with why people like stuff you’re better off doing a critical search online or at the library and then coming here with your disagreements. Chances are that the opinions you read from the pros mirror the ones held by MUBI members and if not at least you’ll get more original responses.
Again, this isn’t meant to be personal. This dynamic has bugged me for a while.
^^Most cinephiles try to intellectually justify almost every work made by one of their favourite directors imo. even academics aren’t above it, they just do it more subtlely. Take Adrian Martin, for example. He tries to make a case for ‘masterpiece’ for most directors he likes.
it’s exactly this kind of nonsense that stops outsiders from taking film criticism seriously. or comic book analysis seriously, for that matter. too many fanboys disguising themselves behind a thin veil of objectivity.
I thought people didn’t take film criticism seriously because the most respected critics still have to review trash like Alvin & the Chipmunks 8: The Chipmunks Finally Kill Dave in a Murder/Suicide Pact…
I certainly didn’t ever connect trying to make a case for what film is great and what film isn’t with poor criticism… of any kind, really… but alright…
POST KYO: agree with Mystery Train, but sometimes Jamursch’s attempts to bring down the ‘barriers of language’ are laughable imo. Ghost Dog, for example, the relationship between the titular character and the ice cream vedor didn’t work for me. it just seemed too obvious.
And T.L.O.Control was a bomb. i suspect the only reason Jamursch was given a decent budget for it was because of the success of Broken Flowers. his only big commercial success to date. gotta laugh at Focus for trusting him though!! hahaah. He gave them one of his most inaccessible films to date after his most conventional
L.O.Control had to be inaccessible in order for Jarmusch to stick his finger in the eye of his audience. I wonder if it was deemed so by foreign audiences.
When one looks at his BO, there is an on/off pattern to his US numbers.