“Life has no plot, why must films or fiction?” — Jim Jarmusch
Jim Jarmusch, the critically acclaimed director, screenwriter and actor, has built a formidable career in the film industry by solidifying his presence in independent cinema since the 1980s. The filmmaker has been at the helm of some now-iconic pictures, the likes of Stranger Than Paradise, Dead Man, Coffee and Cigarettes, Paterson and, more recently, The Dead Don’t Die, all of which have helped forge a prolifically unique and creative portfolio.
Having always surrounded himself with free-thinking creatives, Jarmusch has never been shy when discussing his sources of inspiration and, a few years ago, the filmmaker said: “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination.”
“Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows,” he added when asked about how he explores culture around him.
While Jarmusch has always remained committed to the direction of his work, the filmmaker has also forged strong working relationships with some of the biggest names within the industry who, in turn, have helped shape his vision. “The key, I think, to Jim, is that he went grey when he was 15. As a result, he always felt like an immigrant in the teenage world,” Tom Waits once famously said. Waits added: “He’s been an immigrant—a benign, fascinated foreigner—ever since. And all his films are about that.”
Reflecting on some of the films and directors who have helped inspire his own work, Jarmusch sat down with Rotten Tomatoes to detail five films that, at this moment, he considers to be his favourite. When discussing his first choice, John Waters’ 1974 film Female Trouble, Jarmusch said: “This may be my very favourite John Waters film,” Jarmusch told Rotten Tomatoes. “As time goes by, for me, John Waters becomes more and more important as his work echoes through our culture.” Working relentlessly on his dark comedy, Waters acted as director, co-composer, co-editor, producer when creating Female Trouble. Typically, the film features the likes of Divine, David Lochary, Mary Vivian Pearce and Mink Stole who Waters created strong working relationships with, something the resonated with Jarmusch: “What is so particular and striking for me about John Waters is that no matter how perverse and weird his themes and characters may be, his films are never ever mean spirited,” he said.
Next up is David Leitch’s 2017 effort Blonde, a film based on the 2012 graphic novel The Coldest City. Leitch managed to successfully combine all elements or an action spy film with a female lead and it was released to positive reviews and, going in hand with that, the movie turned out to be a huge hit at the box office and grossed well over £100million in what was Leitch’s directional debut. “I’ve seen it three times,” Jarmusch begins when speaking about the film. “This is my idea of the ultimate feminist action movie. Wonder Woman, I’m sorry, just didn’t do it for me, but Charlize Theron is definitely my idea of a female superhero somehow.”
Moving on to his next pick, Jarmusch paid tribute to Claire Denis and another film that was released in 2017; Let the Sunshine In. Given its premiere as part of the ‘Directors Fortnight’ section of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, Denis’ film is an adaptation of Roland Barthes’s 1977 text A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments with a comedic edge. “Starring the always fascinating Juliette Binoche as a Parisian artist who’s kind of looking for love in all the wrong places,” Jarmusch says. “I found myself laughing at many subtle moments — her misjudgments and misadventures. It also includes some great characters also portrayed by Alex Descas, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, and Gerard Depardieu in a great scene at the end.”
Staying contemporary with his selections, Jarmusch opted to include Heaven Knows What by Ben and Joshua Safdi for his next pick. Based on Mad Love in New York City, the unpublished memoir Arielle Holmes’ life as a homeless heroin addict living on the streets of New York City, the Safdie brothers delivered a cinematic experience that delves deeper and more harrowingly into the life of a drug addict like no other. “Heaven Knows What is such a disturbing story about unrequited love, heroin addiction, and suicidal tendencies that somehow evades being only completely weighed down by desperation,” Jarmusch said of the film. “Even though the death-like weight of the all-out junkie life is detailed and harrowing, it’s also a really interestingly made film in the way it’s shot.”
See the full list, below.
Jim Jarmusch’s 5 Favourite Films:
- Female Trouble – John Waters, 1974
- Blonde – David Leitch, 2017
- Let the Sunshine In – Claire Denis, 2017
- Heaven Knows What – Ben and Joshua Safdie, 2015
- American Psycho – Mary Harron, 2000
Mary Harron’s neo-noir psychological horror American Psycho, released in 2000 to positive reviews and impressive box office results, was Jarmusch’s final choice. With a cast containing the likes of Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Chloë Sevigny, Reece Witherspoon and more, the film’s legacy has only grown stronger in the years that have gone by.
“My number one is American Psycho, 2000,” Jarmusch tells Rotten Tomatoes. “A masterful adaptation of words to cinema by Mary Harron, an important American director, and writer. I think that the film resonates even more now than when it was made almost 20 years ago.
“Christian Bale’s performance is brutally riveting, and the entire cast– Willem Dafoe, Chloe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, and Jared Leto – are all just really good. There’s also an uncut ‘Killer Collections’ edition, which I would strongly recommend. It’s a great film.”