At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
December is “The Month of Classics” at Film Space. January, “The Month of Coincidence.”
Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school. Showings are in a classroom on the second floor or on the roof, weather permitting. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance – you should leave 20 baht. Well worth supporting.
At Film Space Saturday, December 19: Stranger Than Paradise (1984) by JimJarmusch– 89 mins – US/ West Germany, Comedy/ Drama. Generally favorable reviews: 76 out of 100.
This is about a self-styled New York hipster (John Lurie of the Lounge Lizards) who is paid a surprise and quite unwelcome visit by his pretty sixteen-year-old Hungarian cousin. From initial hostility and indifference a strange affection grows between the two exiles. Due to complete boredom they decide to visit their aunt in the wastelands of Cleveland and then proceed to sunny Florida where they lose all their money and unwittingly gain a fortune. With a final ironic twist, they are at the end, back where they began.
The film's scenes are each a single shot, 67 of them, followed by a few seconds of black screen. The whole film is sequence shots with live sound; editing consisted simply of putting them end to end.
Roger Ebert: Stranger Than Paradise is a treasure from one end to the other. It is like no other film you've seen, and yet you feel right at home in it. It seems to be going nowhere, and knows every step it wants to make. It is a constant, almost kaleidoscopic experience of discovery, and we try to figure out what the film is up to and it just keeps moving steadfastly ahead, fade in, fade out, fade in, fade out, making a mountain out of a molehill.
FilmInFocus, Scott Macaulay: WithPermanent Vacation little seen outside of the downtown New York film scene, Jarmusch's 1984 feature Stranger than Paradise is often considered his proper debut, winning, even, the Cannes Film Festival's Camera d'Or, given to the best first-time film. The film began as a half-hour short, shot with the film stock left over from the shooting of Wim Wenders' feature The State of Things. During filming, Jarmusch came up with the idea of two additional chapters, and after some more fundraising he finished what is a seminal film in the American Independent movement. Comprised of 67 single-shot scenes separated by moments of black leader, the film tells the story of Willie, a Hungarian émigré played by John Lurie and his NYC pal Eddie, played by drummer and actor Richard Edson, whose uneventful lives are disrupted when Willie's young cousin Eva (the Squat Theater's Eszter Balint) visits on her way to Cleveland. The best description of the movie comes from the director himself, who said, "When shooting the film, someone outside the production asked me what kind of film we were making. I wanted to tell them that it was a "semi-neorealist black comedy in the style of an imaginary Eastern European film director obsessed with Ozu and familiar with the 1950s American television show The Honeymooners." Village Voice critic J. Hoberman also picked up on the film's minimalist take on sketch comedy, calling it "a Kabuki sitcom" and "an amalgam of Damon Runyon and Piet Mondrian that's a triumph of low-budget stylization."
The Jim Jarmusch Resource Page, Carl Wayne Arrington: In a business filled with cookie-cutter directors, independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch is a Swiss-army knife. His films are quirky, surreal, sometimes boring, and frequently hilarious film noir comedies from a director who wants us to behold, as one of his characters puts it, a “sad and beautiful world.”
The films Permanent Vacation (1980), Stranger Than Paradise (1984), Down by Law (1986) and Mystery Train (1989) were cast, written, and directed by Jarmusch, who insists on creative control. That means shoestring financing (Mystery Train was made for a modest $2.8 million) and seat-of-the-pants ingenuity. Jarmusch does not owe his soul to any company store. “I object strongly to businessmen telling me how to make a film,” he says. “The business side is there to serve the film. I don’t make films so that business can exist.”
Little wonder, then, that the major studios steer clear of him. Jarmusch’s films contain no formulaic romances, car chases, or superstar casting to shore up their box-office appeal. Using a minimalist style that charges the mundane with meaning, he plays with concepts like synchronicity that are not often found in Cineplex fodder. He says simply, “There are an unlimited number of perspectives. I find optimism in that.”
That attitude has made Jarmusch a cult figure, especially in Europe and Japan; moreover, his critical reputation continues to swell. Vincent Canby of the New York Times hailed Jarmusch as the “most adventurous and arresting filmmaker to surface in the American cinema this decade.”
At thirty-six, Jarmusch looks like a character in one of his celluloid reveries. Lanky and muscular, he rarely smiles but has a disarmingly deep laugh. His head is crowned with a shock of white hair swept up as if he were on his way to a pompadour-off with Buster Poindexter. In fact, he comes by his looks genetically. His mother’s and uncle’s hair went white age fourteen, just as Jim’s did. Still, the effect gives him the haunted aura of a man who has just seen a ghost.
For the record, he never has. But Jarmusch says he did spot a UFO once. “When I was a kid, I saw a thing traveling in the sky that stopped and moved a bit,” he says. “It was a little brighter than a star but about that intensity and size. It stopped. Then it moved a little bit. Then it went…pffffftt…straight out of sight. That weren’t no airplane. That weren’t no swamp gas.” He definitely believes we are not alone. “How could we think we are the center of the universe?” he asks. “I think if aliens study earth, to them it is probably like somebody’s science-fair project, and they probably got a D on it.”
Jarmusch grew up in Akron; he was the middle child of a father who worked for the B.F. Goodrich Company and a mother who wrote movie reviews for the Akron Beacon Journal. Jarmusch’s own life followed a less traditional course. His jobs were many and varied. “I worked on assembly lines,” he says. “I have been a moving man. I’ve worked in hotels. I’ve been a waiter. I was a cab driver briefly in Chicago. I loaded things onto trucks. I was a member of a sheet-metal union. Once I had a job working [as an orderly’s helper] in a Cook County mental hospital.”
After earning a BA in English literature from Columbia University, Jarmusch moved on to New York University’s film school. He never finished; instead he used his tuition money to help finance his first film, Permanent Vacation, shot in ten days for $10,000. Making exactly the kind of movies he wants to has occupied his time ever since. Consequently, this outlaw-entrepreneur is still a distance from becoming rich. Jarmusch and his girlfriend, Sara Driver, live in New York City’s Bowery district. He fits right in. “I am near Little Italy and Chinatown,” he says. “There are also Hasidic Jews and Puerto Ricans. I just like that mix.” He’s only been mugged once, and then it was by eight junkies in the subway.
Jarmusch insists that he’s surprised when fans recognize him and request an autograph, and he always things, “Hey, who do you think I am? I’m buying records in a line, just like you.” He reads Eastern philosophy and says he likes to hang out with friends in bars.
Below: filmmaker Jim Jarmusch
Spielberg he ain’t, and definitely doesn’t want to be. “I have a real problem with Spielberg’s films,” Jarmusch says, pointing to a prime example of what he believes is wrong with American cinema. “I don’t want to just slag the guy personally, but to me he makes Walt Disney films. I think it is really reprehensible that he takes for granted that everybody’s white, everybody’s middle class and everybody has the same aspirations. And that’s the way America is. Or he goes out and makes a film that my friends and I call Colored People. That’s like, ‘Yaz, massah, I’s gwine fishin’.’ That kind of thing. At the same time, as a craftsmen, he’s really amazing. But in terms of content, I think you have to aware of what you are leading the audience to believe.”
Jarmusch is a dedicated student of all manner of foreign films. He admits to never having seen Gone With the Wind, but is intimately familiar with the works of Japanese directors like Yasujiro Ozu (Tokyo Story) and Akira Kurosawa (The Seven Samurai). As far as Americans go, he admires outsiders such as Spike Lee, the late John Cassavetes, and Nicholas Ray (he studied with Ray at NYU’s film school and worked as his teaching assistant).
But Jarmusch is quick to argue that he is more than a celluloid addict. “I find it disturbing that a lot of people who work in films get their inspiration only from cinema and not from, say, literature or music or painting or theater or architecture or the design of a motorcycle,” he says. “Just listening in a bus station is more valuable than watching mainstream films.”
Rotten Tomatoes: Credited with inventing the genre of the modern horror film, Psycho has had its share of sequels and imitators, none of which diminishes the achievement of this shocking and complex horror thriller. Alfred Hitchcock's choreography of elements in Psycho is considered so perfect it inspired a shot-by-shot remake by Gus VanSant in 1998. However, Hitchcock's black-and-white original, featuring Anthony Perkins's haunting characterization of lonely motel keeper Norman Bates, has never been equaled. Bates presides over an out-of-the-way motel under the domineering specter of his mother. The young, well-intentioned Bates is introduced to the audience when Marion Crane (Janet Leigh), a blonde on the run with stolen money, checks in for the night. But Momma doesn't like loose women, so the stage is set for this classic tale of horror--and one of the most famous scenes in film history. Psycho was initially received by audiences with shock and amazement--and it still terrifies today. Though it is now considered prototypical Hitchcock, its setting, pace, and emphasis on terror were major departures for the director at the time, coming after the more classically grand North By Northwest.
Consensus: Infamous for its shower scene, but immortal for its contribution to the horror genre. Because Psycho was filmed with tact, grace, and art, Hitchcock didn't just create modern horror, he validated it.
The Bates house was directly inspired by Edward Hopper's "House by a Railroad" 1925.
At Film Space Saturday, January 2: Burn After Reading (2008) by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen – 96 mins – US/ UK/ France, Comedy/ Crime/ Drama. With George Clooney, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt. Rated R in the US for pervasive language, some sexual content, and violence. Generally favorable reviews: 63/61 out of 100.
With Burn After Reading, the Coen Brothers have crafted another clever comedy/thriller with an outlandish plot and memorable characters.
Rotten Tomatoes: With their overtly comedic follow-up Burn After Reading, the Coen Brothers return--about a third of the way--from the dark, dank recesses of the human psyche they traversed in their Oscar-winning No Country For Old Men. For those unfamiliar with the landscape of modern movie psychoanalysis, this puts the fraternal filmmakers square in the cruel, misanthropic, and farcical realm of their 1990s-era body of work, somewhere between the tragicomic crime thriller of Fargo and the disconnected noir-homage anti-storytelling of The Big Lebowski, with 2007's No Country retroactively adding new nihilism-tinged dimensions of smart skepticism to the proceedings. In a more linear trajectory, Burn After Reading also stands as the third entry, after Blood Simple and Fargo, in what could be an unofficial Tragedy of Human Idiocy trilogy, wherein characters make the most outlandishly moronic moves to devastating consequences simply by adhering to true human behavior. Indeed, Carter Burwell's emotionally weighty score, which washes over biting scenes of explosive, anesthetizing belly laughs, is very reminiscent of his Fargo work. Burn is ostensibly structured and propelled by a spy-thriller plotline involving a classified CD lost by a disgraced CIA spook and found by two simple gym employees. But, in actuality, it's simply--amazingly--a collection of brilliant caricature studies interwoven by veracious, if Coenesque, social interactions, as epitomized by the pathos of the Frances McDormand character's precipitous quest for cosmetic surgery. The CIA superior who learns of the film's events (always second-hand and sometimes along with the viewer) doesn't know what to make of it, and why would he? This is the first Coen film in almost 20 years not shot by cinematographer Roger Deakins, yet the "new" guy, Emmanuel Lubezki (Children Of Men), has created as visceral and emotionally fraught a high-definition cartoon as any since Barton Fink.