To coincide with the release of Jim Jarmusch’s most recent feature film, The Dead Don’t Die, we decided to look back at a selection of films that have inspired him the most.
Jarmusch, who began life as a filmmaker in the 1980s, emerged as a major force of independent cinema and compounded his status with the release of his films such as Stranger Than Paradise, Down by Law and Mystery Train all of which planted the foundations of his work in this decade.
For Jarmusch though, the idea of independent film emerged from a young age as he started to focus heavily on the idea of a “counter-culture” element to society—a theme he would carry with him through many of his artistic creations. A reflection of his life and work could recount back to life growing up in Ohio as a reason for Jarmusch’s desire to search for something new, something different and out of the ordinary; “Growing up in Ohio was just planning to get out,” he once commented.
If “getting out” was the plan from the beginning, he certainly achieved it. Having moved to Chicago to study English and American literature at Columbia University, Jarmusch took the opportunity to engage in a summer exchange programme in his final year and headed to Paris for what was initially a summer semester but ended up being a ten-month extended stay. It was during this time in the French capital that Jarmusch managed to tap into his creative outlook, remembering iconic scenes from films that had a deep-rooted sense of belonging within him.
“That’s where I saw things I had only read about and heard about – films by many of the good Japanese directors, like Imamura, Ozu, Mizoguchi,” Jarmusch once remarked about his time in Paris. “Also, films by European directors like Bresson and Dreyer, and even American films, like the retrospective of Samuel Fuller’s films, which I only knew from seeing a few of them on television late at night.”
At this point in his life, cinema wasn’t particularly high on Jarmusch’s radar from a professional standpoint and he was studying to become a writer and journalist. His Paris adventure, however, offered a new dimension to his thinking: “When I came back from Paris, I was still writing, and my writing was becoming more cinematic in certain ways, more visually descriptive,” he continued.
Following his graduation and return from Paris, Jarmusch headed to New York and took the decision to enrol at the graduate film school of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, under the stewardship of Hollywood director László Benedek. It was at this point, rubbing shoulders with fellow students like Spike Lee and Sara Driver, that Jarmusch honed his skill as a filmmaker and extensively studied the art to get himself up to speed with those more experienced around him.
Searching for some of his inspirations, some of the films that pushed him to move into cinema, we found a list that Jarmusch created a few years ago for Sight and Sound poll. In it, Jarmusch collects some of the Japanese and European directors that he referenced as memory during his time in Paris.
See the full list, below.
Jim Jarmusch’s top 10 films of all time:
- L’Atalante – Jean Vigo, 1934.
- Tokyo Story – Yasujiro Ozu, 1953.
- They Live by Night – Nicholas Ray, 1949.
- Bob le Flambeur – Jean-Pierre Melville, 1955.
- Sunrise – F.W. Murnau, 1927.
- The Cameraman – Buster Keaton and Edward Sedgwick, 1928.
- Mouchette – Robert Bresson, 1967.
- Seven Samurai – Akira Kurosawa, 1954.
- Broken Blossoms – D.W. Griffith, 1919.
- Rome, Open City – Roberto Rossellini, 1945.
“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.
“He’s been an immigrant – a benign, fascinated foreigner – ever since. And all his films are about that.” —Tom Waits.