Icon: Jim Jarmusch
For his latest film, our favorite downtown rock-and-roll hepcat, Jim Jarmusch, is doing… a vampire movie.
Yes, it’s true: Jimbo has jumped on the Edward-and-Bella bandwagon. Except, of course, the bloodsuckers in Only Lovers Left Alive—played by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston—are anything but teenage hornballs. Rather, they spend their days driving around aimlessly, languishing on settees, smoking cigarettes and otherwise marinating in their own hyper-cultured ennui.
In other words, it’s a Jim Jarmusch movie—with fangs.
Then again, every iconic character in Jarmusch’s 30-year oeuvre has been a study in laconic cool, including the director himself.
With his trademark shock of white hair, punkish all-black ensembles and perma-cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth, Jim looks like he walked out of one of his own movies. And young Jim certainly could have passed for a Hollywood leading man—those pouty pillow lips are the stuff GQ covers are made of.
Perhaps no other director in history has so fully embodied his own cinematic style—right down to his predilection for black-and-white minimalism. It’s no coincidence that those grandfather fedoras and suspenders John Lurie sported in Stranger Than Paradise came to define old-school New York cool. They were ripped straight from the streets of downtown, where Jarmusch met his friends—guys like Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, Richard Hell, Joey Ramone. These were the cats Jim picked up while hanging around the CBGB scene in the ’80s; some even popped into his movies, bantering with that trademark mixture of deadpan wit and bohemian conviviality.
Friendships play a key role in his films’ on-screen style, too. Take this story about the covetable iridescent suits sported by Isaach De Bankolé in 2009’s The Limits of Control. Jarmusch had the connections to ask Tom Ford to make them, but Ford was swamped. So he went to an old tailor in Madrid instead. “I’d go in there every few days, saying ‘It’s a half an inch too short, the jacket.’ Or, ‘No, I wanted the pockets Continental style,’” Jarmusch told New York magazine. Apparently, somewhere along the way, Jarmusch had learned his share of #menswear lingo.
Which brings us back to Only Lovers Left Alive, where the ever-ethereal Tilda Swinton floats around in long, queenly robes on the gloomy side streets of Tangiers. The film’s end credits thank Jim’s longtime girlfriend, Sara Driver, for her “instigation and inspiration.” His similarly disheveled, similarly rock-star-cool filmmaker counterpart collaborated on his earlier films, and Jim once said that her only flaw is “her taste in men.” Which reveals what we’ve always suspected: deep down, Jarmusch is a romantic.
- — Michelle Ong