Friday, June 23, 2006

Jarmusch and Music

I've just finished watching Jim Jarmusch's film "Down By Law" (imdb). I'm a big fan of Jarmusch as a director, and, I suppose, as a thinker and a person. The Criterion DVD release has a nice feature called "Thoughts and Reflections," which is simply Jim waxing eloquent on his filmmaking style, inspiration, music, New Orleans, and lots of other things. He mentions a lot of musical artists I'm not familiar with, so I wanted to note them. In one scene during the movie, Tom Waits' character, an out of work radio DJ, mentions Earl King's song "Trick Bag," which is a fantastic tune. Here's a list of musicians that Jarmusch says he was listening to a lot of as he wrote "Down By Law."

Professor Longhair,
Earl King,
Ernie Cado,
Erma Thomas,
Alan Toussaint,
Bennie Spellman,
The Meters,
Johnny Adams,
Walter Wolfman Washington,
Dr. John,
The Nevilles.

It's also laugh-out-loud hilarious to hear Jarmusch describe the trick that he and the cast played on Roberto Benigni, who knew very little English as the time this movie was made.

The film itself, by the way, is excellent. Jarmusch's sense of "cool" is fully intact here. That means the pacing is slower, the dialogue breathes, and we have plenty of lovely shots were little or nothing is actually said. Jarmusch has said that he is more interested in character than plot, and that makes his style different than any other filmmaker I can recall. Last but not least, the black and white really looks exquisite.


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