HAVING LUNCH WITH JIM JARMUSCH
'I've seen my dog dreaming,” says Jim Jarmusch over lunch in New York on a snowy December day. His voice is sedate, but excitement pops in his eyes. Other animals have imaginations, too, he thinks. “Once I left a mop outside the window of my apartment, and I saw a sparrow examining it for several days. It kept coming back, and then it started biting through to take away some strands to build a nest. It was thinking, you know?” Jarmusch does a sparrow voice, which sounds identical to his usual voice: “Man, I think this might work …”
Speaking to Jim Jarmusch, it turns out, isn’t so different from watching one of his films. His work, like his conversation, doesn’t cohere into stories so much as constellations, networks of seemingly isolated ideas which achieve a greater meaning arranged together just so. As a man, he’s immediately identifiable: the Lee Marvin face, that shock of white hair that looks like Andy Warhol touched up with a Tesla coil.
As a director, too, there are recurring elements: a minimalist aesthetic, laconic but lovable characters (often played by musicians), a cool compositional remove that invites humour without sacrificing sincerity. These are films that believe everything is connected; theirs is a cinema of culture in conversation with itself. A young Japanese couple obsessed with Elvis. William Blake reborn into the American west. Instruments that resonate with every note that’s been played on them, the world bound together by cab rides and cups of coffee. “Each one of us is a set of shifting molecules, spinning in ecstasy,” says one character in The Limits of Control. “In the future, worn-out things will be made new again by reconfiguring their molecules.”
JIM JARMUSCH ON THE TIME HE MET CHRIS MARKER
There were a lot of things that I couldn’t fit into my recent interview with Jim Jarmusch (which you can read at The Guardian). This is one of them.
“I had a great chance to meet Chris Marker, once. I got to go outside of Paris, he was in a little editing room in it, I think? And this guy Anatole Dauman was a big producer, and he said ‘I pay for Chris to have this little editing room, would you like to go visit him, he would love it.’ And I said, ‘Yeah!’. And I went there, not with this guy, and Chris Marker was in a room about the size of this booth, and he was editing, and he was starting to work in video, early video.
So he took a camera and he filmed me for a while, and he had all these trims in a bin, and he said ‘This is a film project I’m working on, but I don’t touch it, because look inside.’ And inside the bin was a mother cat with her little newborn babies, and he said ‘I leave them alone, they are a priority. So now I work on the video until she takes them out and then I can go back to the film project.’
He was strange and particular and so nice. It was fantastic.”
let’s destroy some microphones