WHO is he?

American screenwriter and filmmaker who has made 11 feature length works and several short films since the early Eighties. Jarmusch’s name is associated with that strain of independent cinema which surfaced after the rise of the phenomenon of Hollywood blockbuster. Jarmusch won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1984 for his breakthrough debut Stranger Than Paradise, which also fetched him the top prize at the Locarno Film Festival.

WHAT are his films about?

Themes

The characters in Jarmusch’s films are bona-fide loners, living on the fringes of societal structures. They often have their own code of conduct, brotherhood and honour. Jarmusch’s films are melting pots of international film sensibilities and thematics and, in one way, they come across as antidotes to homogenisation of cinema by dominant industries. Jarmusch is an astute student of art and his work is justifiably steeped in reference to authors and art forms he is influenced by.

Style

A predominance of static, tableau-like compositions that portray characters from a distance, understated soundtrack featuring R&B, jazz and rap, punctuating tracking shots, use of deep-space and deadpan acting are some of the striking features of Jarmusch’s films. They are very attentive towards the dead times of the narrative — segments in which not much action or dialogue transpires. The sets are minimalist and actor movement is either drawn out or restricted. There are no voiceovers or conventional narrative structures in his films.

WHY is he of interest?

Jarmusch has been widely celebrated as a pioneer figure responsible for the resurrection of the American independent cinema. In a way, his work could be seen as the bridge between the New York-based independent filmmaking of the Sixties, with its singular authorial vision and independent mindedness, and the Sundance-influenced independent cinema of the Nineties, whose affinity for narration, characterisation and everyday drama it shares.

WHERE to discover him?

Coffee And Cigarettes (2003), one of Jarmusch’s most criticised yet most alluring films, is a compendium of 11 vignettes detailing eccentric, surreal and often absurd conversations between characters over coffee and cigarettes. More than any of his other films, there is a dream-like quality to this work, with pieces of dialogue from one segment finding echo in another, celebrated actors gracing what is most certainly a mundane setup and lives getting interconnected in strange, fascinating ways.

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