View Full Version : Jim Jarmusch Film Festival Part 1: Permanent Vacation

Johnny L.A.
12-06-2008, 07:50 PM
Anyone interested in a Jim Jarmusch Film Festival? I know Jarmusch films are not everyone's cup of tea, but I think there are one or two fans here. I'll start it off with his first film, Permanent Vacation. From Imdb (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084488/):
In downtown Manhattan, a twenty-something boy ('Chris Parker' )whose Father is not around and whose Mother is institutionalized, is a big Charlie Parker fan. He almost subconsciously searches for more meaning in his life and meets a few characters along the way.
I've only just seen this film, Jarmusch's first, which he made shortly after dropping out of film school. Of all of his films I've seen, this one is my least-favourite. Like most Jarmusch films, this one has a leisurely pace. That is to be expected. What annoyed me was the ambient sounds and the audio in general. Perhaps he was influenced by Godard's use of ambient sound, but it just didn't work for me. And the rest of the audio was just muddy. The somnambulists -- I mean actors -- delivered the dialog woodenly, often mumbling their lines. On one occasion I'm sure I heard the camera noise.

The lighting was generally poor. The traveling shots were hand-held and moved around too much. Of course this was before low-budget filmmakers could expect to get their hands on a SteadiCam or other such device (although Sam Raimi improvised by attaching a camera to a 2x4 to good effect a year later), and dollies and track cost money to rent. Maybe he was going for a verite look. I don't know. But it was distracting. Another shot is a high angle on a sax player, taken with a telephoto lens. Obviously hand-held. He had a tripod, and I don't see why he didn't use it. No reason for that shaky shot. Many shots just screamed, 'Student film!'

But there were good things in the film as well. This is where Jarmusch established his quirky characters, his long takes, and so forth. Some of the shots were beautifully done. One 'nugget' was a scene where Allie (Chris Parker) meets a man in a lobby who tells a joke he calls 'Doppler Effect'. This is a joke I tell from time to time involving a sax player's efforts to play Over The Rainbow (the song is a thread in the film) and his inability to remember the bridge. I like that, because it's a joke no one has ever heard (and few people laugh at!).

Another thing I liked was the sheer low-budgetness. The last project I worked on, had to hang a guy, modify a pistol to shoot blanks, build special props, and so forth. Permanent Vacation is basically pointing the camera at actors or scenery and pushing the button. It had a bit of a guerilla-filmmaking vibe going for it.

Permanent Vacation is very much flawed. But then, it's the guy's first film so I can be a little charitable. Unless you're a fan of Jarmusch films, I'd say give this one a miss. If you are a fan, then it's worth it to see his earliest effort.

Next time (if there's any interest): Stranger Than Paradise.