JIM JARMUSCH – IN CONVERSATION
JS: When I’m checking out The Limits of Control, I’m seeing a new kind of subjectivity in your filmmaking. The protagonist is simply named Lone Man, and he’s a hitman who just kind of descends into a world of abstraction as the flick progresses. And I’m feeling Chris Doyle (cinematographer) coming through in the film a lot…
JJ: Chris Doyle and I talked a lot before filming about all kinds of things – he is a person with so many ideas that he’s not protective of. They’re like fish swimming by, you just take them from the river and more come. His eye is important and always helps me grow as a filmmaker.
JS: Do you do a shot list?
JJ: I don’t have a shot list – with Chris it is in the moment. He’s tireless and moody and swings all over the map emotionally. He is a Wildman – they said Keith Richards met him and said ‘Chris Doyle is the Keith Richards of cinematography!’ The bottom line is you don’t get that kind of talent in a sane package.
JS: What about those words: ‘those who think they are important wind up in a cemetery – a handful of dust’, which we are reminded of all the time in the film?
JJ: Don’t ask me to be specific or explain it. Just a warning. I struggle with that. It’s not really my thing.
JS: Let’s talk about reviewers…
JJ: I really like the bad reviews. Talking to people who like it is not so interesting. I mean, take The Limits of Control – that’s not a mainstream film and it is open to interpretation. So any perspective, even a harshly negative one, is not a total shock. In fact it’s incredibly interesting. I really learnt early on that opinions are based on things not in your control. I remember someone writing about me personally under the pretense that they were reviewing Stranger Than Paradise, and they accused me of being a ridiculously pretentious asshole with white hair and black clothes. The reality is my hair is genetically prematurely white. I’ve been wearing black clothes since my late teens, it isn’t a phase. Reviews are like cheap street drugs – they take you up or down quick and they wear off quicker. Look Julian, any of my films… I can’t tell you what it means or be specific. My answers will be quite varied depending on when you ask. You won’t even get the same damn answers within the same damn interview. But with reviews, the bottom line is, they definitely don’t, like, bother my ego or anything. They’re a point of view.
JS: I’m feeling like there wasn’t much of a script when you started shooting The Limits of Control?
JJ: I had 25 pages of prose, a 25 page story… which is weird.
JS: Come on, tell me more about the methodology behind it…
JJ: I guess briefly I went through the characters in a sort of treatment – it was important but brief. I don’t want to know where they came from or where they are going. I don’t want to know the dialogue. We’ll have a few conversations, the cast and I. We’ll just write it the night before we shoot. ‘Oh, that sounds interesting’ – you know? I just had the idea with this one character of Lone Man to be played by Isaac De Bankole – he would be some kind of criminal on his own, going across Spain. That was about it.
JS: How did Bill Murray get in on this lark?
JJ: I just thought ‘how about Bill?’ (Laughs). The guy Bill plays – as you saw – is very nasty, and he’s not compassionate, not humorous – not one of the human characters we associate with Bill. He just said that it was a good thing for him to do. You know, going against what is emblematic.
JS: More and more people are shooting digitally. Is that something you might succumb to?
JJ: Film is something magical. I’ve shot my latest movie on film and I think I will continue to. It is all about light heading into a physical material – and light chemically reacting. Then projecting through a material… that is very magical. Digital does not have magic. But they’re all tools. People said figurative painting would end with the invention of photography – that’s just not true. Laptops and computers don’t mean you can’t write with a pen. Digital can do amazing things and be helpful so my plan is to see how long I can keep getting financing for my odd films and if I cant… look, to be honest Julian, I can forsee that becoming more and more difficult… Shooting digitally would eliminate certain problems and it can be all about what you’re expressing and not the materials like celluloid. I would use it. Yep, I’d use digital. Especially if my next one couldn’t afford to be shot on film. It could happen next time. My good luck might end. I don’t assume anything. I just exec produced something shot digitally and it came out great, and hey, Michael Mann does amazing things with that medium. No, I’m not against it. But there is still something in my heart that resists…
JS: How much are you surfing the net these days Jim?
JJ: I don’t have a computer and I don’t use them. Other people use it to get information for me. I don’t have enough time as it is to make music and read and write and meet friends. I’m slow but at the same time this model of film distribution is kind of coming to it’s end, and I can see that. The music industry ended in a way and there are new things that are positive emerging. Theatrical films – well, it’s looking more and more like it will just be people going to see Avatar 5 at the movies, but they wont be able to go see some smaller low-budget films unless they’re starting up ‘Cine Clubs’ like the seventies. But the theatrical model with the current economic system is out of date anyway – so it is almost certain to be problematic. But, you know, they have Netflix and you can wire it right into your TV and order it right in anytime. I am optimistic about it as well, but its gonna crumble, this system. It’s gonna crumble man.
- It’s Not About The Camera
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