Can anyone explain why so many people like the films of Jim Jarmusch?

I’m on the Straight Dope, home of contrarians, so I’m happy to chime in and say that I’d put True Grit on top, then give Unforgiven and Dead Man a tie for second place, in my list of my all-time favorite westerns.

They’re three very different movies, of course. Unforgiven is a great story about the inevitable horrors of violence (to vastly oversimplify it). Dead Man is a surreal comedy that’s almost too weird to live, but is delightful throughout.

The Coen Brothers’ True Grit, however, is possibility the best movie experience I’ve ever had; it did the things a movie does just about perfectly. I know that’s pretty tautological, but I’m a little too sleepy to explain better right now.

In addition to loving Dead Man, I thought Ghost Dog was an exceptional film. Honestly, nothing else I’ve seen by Jarmusch has done much for me, though.

Right back at ya.

If you are going to argue that, in general, an award-winning film, judged by either those in the industry or panels of knowledgeable people, is not ‘better’ than a non-award winning film, there’s not much more to say. Since appreciation of art is entirely subjective, the only way to compile the list of truly great art is by consensus.

This sounds to me like saying, “Since everyone has different fingerprints, the only way to compile the fingerprints we all have is by asking a panel.”

Well, no. If art appreciation is subjective, that means by definition that there’s no such thing as “truly great art.” There is no such thing as the correct definition of “better.” That’s how opinions work.

It doesn’t mean we can’t discuss opinions, of course. We can talk about what our opinions are, and we can marshal evidence in support of them. Others may find that evidence convincing, or they may not.

But ain’t no such thing as “correct” when it comes to opinions.

Personally, I found Dead Man hilarious, and a great movie - it helps that I’m a big fan of the poetry of Blake. :smiley:

When meeting somebody, I’ve occasionally asked, “Do you have any tobacco?” Great payoff when it’s recognized.

Just Asking Questions writes:

> As to the first part, I posit that anyone that likes Dead Man is predisposed to think
> it is awesome.

Well, I’m certainly an exception to that. I like Jarmusch generally. I’ve seen six of his eleven films, and I enjoyed all of them. I don’t think a single one of them is a great film. Jarmusch, to my taste, makes interesting, quirky little films. I enjoy the fact that they’re so different for other movies, even from the other movies that I think are great. I thought Dead Man was a pretty good film. I didn’t think it was a great one. I wouldn’t put it at the level of Ride the High Country, The Wild Bunch, The Searchers, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Last Picture Show (which I consider a Western), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (which is set rather late but is similar to Westerns), or Seven Samurai (which resembles a Western in some ways).

Can’t I do anything right? I wrote:

> . . . that they’re so different for other movies . . .

I meant:

> . . . that they’re so different from other movies . . .

I’ve only seen “Night on Earth” and “Dead Man”.

I thought “Night on Earth” was good, although the only thing I remember now is Roberto Benigni’s hilarious segment.

I thought “Dead Man” was dull with a few scattered laughs, but it probably didn’t help that we saw it with a hipster friend of ours who wouldn’t shut up about how awesome Jim Jarmusch is.

I was wondering why no one mentioned Mystery Train. It and Stranger
than Paradise
are the only Jarmusch films I remember. I did not sense
bleakness even though many scenes were definitely desolate. Jarmusch may
be telling us that what an actor is physically doing at any moment is just as
important as the dialog. I refer to all the minor finger, hand and foot movements
in each scene.

Singanas, 2-21-14

I agree. I think Mystery Train is really good. Steve Buscemi, Joe Strummer and the voice of Tom Waits…

Mystery Train is really funny.

I’ve read through the thread and have come to the conclusion that,* in the sense it was originally intended, *There’s no accounting for taste.

I endorse this statement. Of Jarmusch’s output, the only others I’ve seen are Mystery Train and Dead Man and while I don’t much care for them, the former two films I just love. For me both films have a hilarious tension built into their slender and very similar plots: both feature two self-consciously hip characters (who are clearly complete losers) having unplanned encounters with an outsider who ends up gradually pulling the other two out of their own asses, whether they want it or not, and yet still end up punished for their sour view of life; effectively for not recognizing that “it is a sad and beautiful world” indeed.

I can certainly understand if this is not for everyone. Jarmusch has a very specific way of setting up and playing out scenes, and seems totally disinterested in the busy repetoire of variations in camera placement and fast edits that most current directors use to move the story along. The beauty I find in his films is in the simple yet sophisticated staging (heightened in the films under discussion by the abstract monochrome images) and the breaking up of each sequence from the others via abrupt transitions that give each scene the tone of a sort of filmic Haiku. OK, that’s a bit pretentious.

How about this: I think Stranger Than Paradise and Down by Law are great comedies for the way both mine humor from ordinary dialogue, and for being an almost endless series of sight gags that are often subtle but are clearly there for those willing to look. Just a couple of examples from Down by Law: Lurie and Waits’ reactions when Begnini announces why he’s in jail with them, and the reactions of all three after their escape, when they realize how closely their newfound hideout resembles the place they were escaping from.

But yeah, no one HAS to like a particular film, or director. If Jarmusch isn’t your cup of Joe, don’t worry about it.

Absolutely, especially since two of those films are absolutely terrible. Mind you, he’s nowhere in the same league as a Hawks or Peckinpah or Mann or Leone, but I never said he was. But I’d probably have to go back to McCabe & Mrs. Miller to find a western as original and remarkable as Dead Man.

Didn’t realize my comment had opened a whole discussion, but thanks for seeing where I’m coming from. Although I personally find little of value in Pale Rider, Tombstone (or Silverado), there are some truly wonderful things about True Grit, Unforgiven and (to add a new film) Open Range. Great films all, and as a whole, I’d argue that Eastwood and even Costner are better western directors than Jarmusch.

But Dead Man is of such singular originality–in characterization, tone, incident, and perspective–that it truly stands out for me. It was never going to change the face of westerns the way McCabe did, but for me, everything about it–the casting, dialogue, music, photography–works perfectly. It really really helps when you see it on the big screen. Just my opinion of course, but the only other movie that some might count as a “western” that comes close is John Sayles’s Lone Star (which I like even more).