Jim Jarmusch’s film strikes a fine balance between a serious and comprehensive appraisal of The Stooges’ career.
Gimme Danger is the second film by Jim Jarmusch to be premiering at this year’s Cannes festival, and it’s a different beast entirely: an affectionate, loud, and thoroughly entertaining tribute to The Stooges and their universal, ever-lasting dirty, gutter-glam influence.
From their ambitious Michigan beginnings to their ironic Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction, Jarmusch passionately details the legendary band. With frontman Iggy Pop’s distinctive voice infusing the film from beginning to end, Gimme Danger reveals the band’s tumultuous birth in late 60s Detroit, their flirtation with stardom in the early 70s, their battles with critical and record company indifference and their descent into a drug-fuelled chaos and eventual implosion.
It’s true, much of this story has been documented before, but one way or the other Jarmusch manages to make it his own. Given the director’s close relationship to the subject at hand, the film strikes a fine balance between a serious and comprehensive appraisal of the band’s career and a somewhat bizarre and original representation of the their image and attitude. And while a lot of the focus is, of course, on the living legend that is Iggy Pop, Gimme Danger also shines considerable light on to the other founding members Scott and Ron Asheton, original bassist Dave Alexander and later guitarist James Williamson.
Witty, loving and fuelled by some of the finest rock n’ roll music, Gimme Danger is unashamedly nostalgic, yet it also makes you leave the cinema with a lump in your throat that there’s just no one quite like the young Iggy in music anymore. At least not for now.
Paterson doesn’t give answers, yet it offers its fair share of wisdom.
Paterson (Adam Driver) is a dedicated bus driver in the city of Paterson, New Jersey, born there, like his greatest hero, the poet William Carlos Williams, who himself wrote a book-length poem entitled ‘Paterson’. To mark out the setting so explicitly is important, as it ultimately blends into the plot of Paterson, the movie. The film shows one week in the life of our local hero as he gets up early to drive his bus around town, while observing his surroundings and listening to the passengers chatting. During his breaks, Paterson likes to write poetry in his notebook, and after work he volunteers to take his wife’s dog Marvin out for a walk, if only as an excuse to stop by for a beer at his local bar.
To say much more would take the beauty away from this wonderful, wondrous film, which proves once more that Jarmusch’s genius lies in capturing precisely the small moments and fine details that make life so special, no matter how trivial, or crazy, things may seem. One day Paterson’s bus breaks down, leaving him and his passengers stranded. Some days later at the bar a heartbroken actor attempts to shoot himself in front of his beloved ex-girlfriend, and everyone else around. However, whatever the problem, Paterson handles each situation with the same calm and unassuming authority that even allows him to forgive Marvin for shredding his notebook.
Naturally Paterson doesn’t give answers, yet it offers its fair share of wisdom. Paterson’s poetry, inspired by Williams, has the intention and the power to make people see the world in a new way – if we simply care to look and take note. And with his film, Jarmusch has pulled off an equally fine feat.
One of the top picks in the outstanding selection of this year’s Etrange Festival, Iranian filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature mixes sumptuous high contrast black and white cinematography, Italian Western music, Jim Jarmusch driftiness, comics influences, Farsi language and a chador-wearing skateboarding vampire girl to create a seductive, singular world entirely her own.
In the Iranian ghost town of Bad City, a hard-working boy with a 50s car and a junkie father tries to confront the nasty drug-dealer who has them under his thumb, and encounters a strange, silent black-cloaked girl in the process. Tentative love slowly develops between the two even though unbeknownst to Arash the Girl continues to stalk the streets at night and feed on the desperado denizens of Bad City.
The loose narrative meanders with achingly beautiful melancholy through one poetic moment after another. The Girl’s skateboard rescuing of a tripping Arash dressed as Dracula in a deserted street is sweet and funny. The oppressive, forbidding-looking machinery in an oil field is a recurrent backdrop, most notably in a scene where a romantic gift is received in a way that undercuts any potential sentimentality. Similarly, a slow-motion scene of developing intimacy set to White Lies’ ‘Death’ is both tender and charged with an undercurrent of danger.
The love between Arash and the Girl slowly grows amid a sombre world where relationships are all tainted: Arash’s parents, the tragic prostitute Atti with Arash’s father Hossein and the abusive drug dealer/pimp have woven webs of desperation, selfishness, violence and untold grief, sometimes punctuated by awkward, misdirected affection. As the bond between Arash and the Girl tightens, they discover that love is about accepting the other’s ‘badness’ and finding the human warmth you didn’t even know you longed for.
Detached and alone, the Girl is a terrific character, both touching and fearsome, combining childlike ingenuity with a menacing edge. Her charismatic presence quietly dominates the film, and she only needs to appear to create a force field of dark energy on the screen. There is also the clear intimation that she and Atti, the only two women in the film – and maybe the street urchin who has a few alarming encounters with the Girl – know more than the hapless male characters, who do not seem to perceive the forces that influence their lives.
Rich in atmosphere, deliberately slow and stylized, the film is in the vein of Let the Right One In, Only Lovers Left Alive and Nadja, using the vampire figure to dreamily evoke loneliness, desperation and the slim hope for a non-toxic human connection. With very little dialogue, the film uses a striking, luminous visual language of its own creation to tell the beginning of cautious new love. A true gem that is not to be missed.
Cast: Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, John Hurt, Mia Wasikowska
After Jarmusch’s last film, The Limits of Control, it seemed that another great director was close to losing his genius, but there is a welcome sense of rebirth about Only Lovers Left Alive from the moment it opens. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston make for a brilliant pair of vampire lovers who have been truly, madly, deeply in love for centuries, yet are now living apart. Swinton’s resilient and enigmatic Eve resides in lush Tangiers while Hiddleston’s disheartened underground musician, Adam, is holed up in the outskirts of derelict Detroit. When their longing for each other becomes unbearable, Eve decides to take on the difficult journey (she can only travel at night) to reunite with Adam, but soon after the couple are back together, their gently hedonistic idyll of non-murderous blood and old vinyl is disrupted by the arrival of Eve’s unnerving, uncontrollable younger sister (Mia Wasikowska).
Nothing much happens in Jarmusch’s sensuous fantasy of night and nostalgia, apart from the fact that the pair are running short of the sort of pure, uncontaminated blood that they now need to keep them going. But watching these two archetypal outcasts, still in full possession of their animal instincts, as they roam around trying to blend in with their surroundings, is an undemanding, irresistible pleasure.
This review was first published as part of our Cannes 2013 coverage.
Watch the trailer:
As always with Jim Jarmusch, music is crucial to the film, not just as sonic accompaniment to the images, but also as an integral part of the story, starting with a main character who is a musician and lives in a house full of vinyl and vintage guitars (almost all of the records actually belong to Jarmusch).
The score was written by Jozef Van Wissem, avant-garde composer, lutenist and guitarist, with contributions by SQÜRL, a trio featuring Jarmusch, Carter Logan and Shane Stoneback. Van Wissem’s music is beautifully sparse and evocative, punctuating the story with nonchalant, unhurried, fuzzy guitars that moodily drift in and out, just like the characters.
Only Lovers Left Alives is released in the UK on DVD, Blu-ray and limited edition Steelbok (BR) on 15 September 2014. The Jim Jarmusch Collection with the director’s first six films will also be released by Soda Pictures on 6 October to tie in with the BFI Jim Jarmusch Season, which will include the re-release of Down by Law on 12 September 2014.
In addition to the score, there are a number of original songs that are heard at key moments in the film. The opening track is a woozy, slowed-down, even ghostlier remix of Wanda Jackson’s spine-tingling ‘Funnel of Love’, which flows over a hypnotic pan of the various characters in different locations, all tripping out after drinking blood. Later we’ll also hear the louche guitar riff of Charlie Feathers’s terrific ‘Can’t Hardly Stand It’ and Denise LaSalle’s laidback and soulful ballad ‘Trapped by a Thing Called Love’. But it’s not all classic soul and rock’n’roll, and Jarmusch’s enduring love for the 50s and 60s is complemented by new music from the likes of American psychedelic rock band White Hills, and Lebanese singer Yasmine Hamdan in an atmospheric, Moroccan-set café scene.
The Only Lovers Left Alive soundtrack is out on ATP Recordings. It is available on double 180 gsm 12” red vinyl (with download code), CD, and digital download. There is also a limited edition of 1000, all-black 180g 12″ vinyl singles featuring ‘The Taste of Blood’ (Jozef Van Wissem and SQÜRL), ‘Funnel of Love’ (SQÜRL and Madeline Follin) and ‘In Templum Dei’ (Jozef Van Wissem and Zola Jesus). To listen now to ‘The Taste of Blood’, please click here.
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