The Shovel

Director: Nick Childs

It’s not easy to tell a successfully suspenseful mystery film that will surprise and shock viewers now accustomed to twists and turns made ever so abundant post Sixth Sense. It’s even tougher to tell a masterful mystery in roughly fifteen minutes that proves to be a gripping and frightening piece that had me on the edge of my computer chair due to a tense horrific ending that rivaled Bill Paxton’s film Frailty in its ability to shock. However, writer/director Nick Childs proves to be a natural with this material, based upon a novel by Steve Hamilton, that stars David Strathairn as a likable man named Paul Mullin, who as the film opens is sitting outside in his wooded home in the middle of the night when a sound stirs him from his solitude. He investigates the noise only to discover his neighbor Hank (Neal Huff) digging a hole in the middle of the night with a shovel he’d borrowed from Paul months earlier. The more the two men talk, the more the viewer as well as Paul realize that something suspicious is going on. A few days later, a visit by police officers to the spot of the dig confirms our worst fears and then the story gets even more complicated. Winner of nine short film awards from festivals ranging from the ones held in Newport Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Tribeca, and Woodstock among others, Childs’s The Shovel is one of the most unsettling, yet pitch perfect creepy intrigues to come along in quite some time and will instantly attract fans of Stephen King. Check out the high quality transfer of the short made available from iTunes.

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The Shovel

Avenue Montaigne

Director: Daniele Thompson

Co-written with and starring the director’s son Christopher Thompson, Jet Lag director Daniele Thompson’s latest French confection celebrates Parisian bohemian artists, actors, pianists and those who make their living based solely on their creative output. When Jessica (Cecile De France of The Spanish Apartment) leaves the elderly grandmother who raised her contented in senior housing, Jessica accepts a job at a Parisian café, after being told that she’s working on a trial basis since they only hire male waiters. In her postion, Jessica becomes the confidant, fan and protector of her many patrons including Catherine, a soap opera actress starring in a Feydeau play across the street and struggling to land a movie deal playing Simone de Beauvoir for director Brian Sobinski (Sydney Pollack, also a producer on Montaigne and playing a fictitious version of himself). For her portrayal of Catherine, the neurotic actress facing middle age and professional crisis, Valerie Lemercier received a Cesar award in her native France. Beautifully shot ensemble piece in the vein of Robert Altman, although without the emotional depth or investment, it’s an amusing diversion but there are far superior French character pieces such as Va Savoir that would make for a more satisfying viewing as about midway through Avenue Montaigne, I began to realize just how little I cared about any of the characters involved. While Jessica is our tour guide and serves as a near stand in for the viewer in observing the high-strung arts world, too little back-story was provided for her character including an unbelievable romance between her and Christopher Thompson. We long for more scenes with some of the other supporting players, most notably Albert Dupontel in a fascinating study of an acclaimed international pianist who is tired of his breakneck schedule and lack of passion playing for stuffy audiences who wants to walk away from it all, play in hospitals and live in the country. An entire film could’ve been made simply about the pianist but instead, the film is uneven and bogged down by characters barely understood by viewers—an admirable attempt to depict Parisian artists in their habitat but one that definitely fell short of its promise.

You Kill Me

John Dahl

The man who made a postmodern noir splash with his clever, twisted mystery comedies Red Rock West and The Last Seduction and later crafted a brilliant character study of gambling addiction with Rounders has unfortunately since been relegated to making taut if less than stellar works such as Joy Ride. In simple terms, Dahl needed a hit badly, or if not a hit, something so original that once again viewers would recall how dazzled they were by the dark Hitchcockian twists and turns of the hip, ironic and surprisingly giggle inducing Red Rock West and the shockingly sexy Seduction. His latest film, You Kill Me, was released quietly in theatres after being produced by the good people at IFC Films and it seemed to be one of those summer works that will only break out of the pack through word of mouth and hence here I am urging you not to let it just stay asleep to mass audiences. Despite a low budget and brief running time, it’s nonetheless one of the most imaginative entries into the crime comedy genre, most likely because, unlike the influx of the fake buddy comedies or painfully “cool” studio works, You Kill Me feels-- I daresay-- distinctly real. The film stars one of our most versatile chameleons Ben Kingsely, this time portraying a Polish hit man who works for the family mob in gloomy Buffalo, New York where he finds himself torn between his two hobbies—his utter devotion to the business but his even more enticing mistress of alcohol. When the perpetually drunk Frank Falenczyk (Kingsley) passes out during a crucial hit that would’ve taken out the family rival and head of the Irish mob (Dennis Farina), his uncle Roman (Philip Baker Hall) forces Kingsley out of the cold and over to San Francisco to join AA. Once in San Francisco, the film picks up the pace, as we, along with Frank meet some terrific supporting personalities in his quirky love interest Laurel (Tea Leoni) who is oddly fine with his alcoholism and career as long as he swears he’s not gay (it is after all San Francisco). We also encounter Luke Wilson as his gay, well-meaning, toll-booth operator AA sponsor Tom, who Wilson plays in an understated manner without changing anything in his usual Wilson persona, making his gay character never once wander into the land of stereotype. Cue Bill Pullman (from Last Seduction and a former professor of Dahl’s at the University of Montana) as a shady real estate salesman and you have the stuff of great dark comedy as Frank realizes that there’s more to life than just a bottle and a gun and that life without the bottle makes the gun even more enjoyable, especially when he can count on a new friend and a new love. Shot in just twenty-six days, according to IMDb, the film boasts a wonderful script from writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeeley (who co-wrote the HBO movie The Life and Death of Peter Sellers) that avoids feeling like a gimmicky crime comedy. It's impressive that it always stays believable as Frank, for example, finds himself working in a funeral parlor and we realize that it’s the only job he’s actually qualified for as he struggles with some of the issues concerning AA including those who wallow as well as just how to make amends to those he’s wronged in the past until he ultimately decides that gift cards to the Sony Store seem to work well. Funny, delightfully odd and one summer film you’ll actually remember—it made me instantly want to watch classic Dahl again like Red Rock West but more than that, it made me again appreciate the delightful screwball-inspired nuances that Tea Leoni always brings to her characters and wish that she was given far more cinematic opportunities. It’s a hopeful sign that she was a producer on the film and I'm glad that someone with her humor and intelligence who can help bring these films to light is using her position to tell memorable stories that in someone else's hands may have seemed like jokes—for the one about the hit man who needed to give up the drink so his performance could improve is indeed an original one worth telling.

Round About Five

Directors: Charles and Tom Guard

In another silent and delightfully old fashioned romantic comedy, two of the sharpest short filmmakers from England, Charles and Tom Guard (who brought us the irresistible Inside-Out), succeed yet again with this tale of romance during a daily commute. Martin Freeman (BBC’s The Office, and Love Actually) plays a businessman working late who realizes that he’s overdue to meet his girlfriend who’s arriving at the train station across London. He races through the streets until, nearly collapsing from lack of breath, he comes across an attractive bicycle courier (Jodhi May) who agrees to let him ride along with her and the two seem to ignite some initial sparks of flirtation during the journey which echoes the storyline of his girlfriend (Inside-Out’s Lena Headey) who is being chatted up on the train by a handsome passenger. The film, although short and a bit too rushed to fully develop into a romance, making us depend more on our imaginations as much is left out of the succinct slice-of-life, is cute and enjoyable, upbeat and well worth the download in its moral that a good part of love is actually chance plus proximity, that the Guards perfected with Inside-Out, also available on iTunes.

Check out Round About Five and Inside-Out

Round About Five
Round About Five

Inside Out

Funny Ha Ha

Andrew Bujalski

When we first meet Marnie (Kate Dollenmayer) she’s stumbling into a tattoo parlor after a night of post-college partying. She knows (or at least she thinks she knows) that she wants a tattoo but she’s not quite sure what it should be. While the tattoo artist shows enough integrity not to take advantage of the slightly inebriated Marnie, this scene helps set the tone of not only Bujalski’s sly, clever, character piece that instantly calls to mind Reality Bites, Slacker and the early work of John Cassavetes but it also helps define our leading lady who, having recently graduated from college seems to exist in that state of post-graduate confusion, knowing she needs to grow up but not quite sure how to do that or how to begin her life. Although some label her depressed, Marnie is mostly just bored and aimless as she begins a series of jobs that aren’t quite right for her including working as a temp and a researcher and also has romantic flirtations, crushes and encounters that never quite work out, most likely because the one man she claims to love has told her in the past that he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings. Bujalski, who appears in the film as a coworker who crushes on Marnie, has made a debut film here that seems to echo the feelings of those of us stuck between Generations X and Y—the way the characters drift in and out of scenes, talking endlessly but filling conversations with double-speak, subtle non-dialogue (brimming with “like” and “you know”) that seems to imply other things resonates as well here as it did in his follow-up film Mutual Appreciation, which I’d seen before this one. Funny Ha Ha is funny at times, sad at others but above all true—that rare post-school film that like Ghost World mingles the two emotional states into a frothy, addictive blend with which most viewers can identify—we’ve all been Marnie, wandering around with goals and more questions than answers. We know we want to move forward, get a better job and a nice romantic relationship but it’s the getting there that seems to be the greatest mystery in our twenties and the film never does resolve the issue, choosing to simply end nearly mid-conversation between two lead characters. The film earned Bujalski the 2004 Someone to Watch Award from the Independent Spirit Awards along with Best Feature Film at the Black Point Film Festival. Linklater fans along with those who have worn out their copies of Ghost World and Reality Bites will definitely want to check it out.


Director: Joerg Wagner

This trippy experimental German short won an Honorable Mention award in the Short Filmmaking category at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and only seconds into the work (made available on iTunes) you’ll be able to see why. Inventive, awe-inspiring and perfectly executed by its three cinematographers, two sound editors, and the man at the helm, Joerg Wagner, we watch like children at a carnival as three men ride antique motorcycles around a rudimentary crafted wooden circular tower. The hell-riders journey around and around making defying gravity look easy and the wordless highly stylized black and white short, filled with the sounds of roaring engines, metal, audience applause, machinery, and techno music immediately sucks you in for the ride as we feel like a passenger instead of a simple passive audience member for the less than ten minute running time. Student filmmakers, bike enthusiasts, adrenaline junkies or those interested in the now predictably stale field of music videos should definitely give Wagner’s film a look.

See it on iTunes


Paris je t’aime

Directors: Olivier Assayas, Frederic Auburtin & Gerard Depardieu, Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Joel & Ethan Coen, Isabel Coixet, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, Christopher Doyle, Richard LaGravenese, Vincenzo Natali, Alexander Payne, Bruno Podalydes, Walter Salles & Daniela Thomas, Oliver Schmitz, Nobuhiro Suwa, Tom Tykwer, and Gus Van Sant.

In this grand cinematic mix tape of sorts, consisting of eighteen short films set in the city of love, viewers are ushered into neighborhoods and streets of Paris filled with stories not often seen on film. An official selection at both the Cannes Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival and starring some of our most talented performers, most of the credit is due to the gifted international group of more than twenty directors who contributed their own vignettes and ruminations that never overstay their welcome, lasting only a few minutes each. While admittedly compilation films do often suffer from a lack of a cohesive structure or theme and a few of the segments are clunkers, it’s a positively entertaining work that will play even better on a second viewing at home when one can skip over some of the less than stellar chapters. Although some of the tales by the Coen brothers, Natali, Coixet, Suwa, Doyle don’t seem to fit in with the rest and take away from the overall magic, when the standouts appear they elevate the film into the realm of perfection. While much has been written about Alexander Payne’s humorous tale about an American postal worker on vacation in Paris and it is definitely one of the lighter moments, I found I was most touched by some of the subtle pieces that dealt with racial tensions and romantic relationships. By far, my two favorite pieces were the heartbreaking tales of ethnic issues including Loin du 16’eme by Salles & Thomas and Schimtz’s haunting Place des Fetes. While I was dazzled by the technical brilliance of Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer’s tale of young love starring Natalie Portman, tales of older love by Richard LaGravenese and the duo of Frederic Auburtin and Gerard Depardieu with its homage to the auteur Cassavetes seemed to resonate even more. Another piece that’s still echoing through my mind nearly a week later was completed by Alfonso Cuaron with an inventive short starring Nick Nolte (above) that was filmed in a continuous single shot as the characters walk down a Parisian street with the subtext of the dialogue saying one thing until we are faced with a rather comedic conclusion that reminds us never to jump to conclusions. Although it’s impossible to touch on all of the works and the ones by the rest did delight, the film is one that’s best when shared with loved ones in order for you to discuss the richness and relish in the craftsmanship of the ultimate spectacle—although life in Paris is not always filmed with rose colored glasses, Paris je T’aime’s admirable goal to get at the real Paris and the directors' own experiences does shine through.

Call Register

Director: Ed Roe

We’ve all seen those funny and popular “Your Five” mobile phone commercials where one friend finds that his girlfriend’s name and number (along with a secret ringtone) are in his best friend’s phone and while they are amusing, the ads always feel forced complete with “sound bites” and “catch phrases” cribbed from pop culture such as Pulp Fiction and other sources. For a fresh spin on a very relatable situation in this world of overlapping social circles and both the convenience and frustration of the lack of privacy of technology comes an inventive short film, nominated for a British Academy Award and starring Martin Freeman of BBC’s The Office. Subtle, low-key and filled with the sort of throwaway, casual, uncomfortable and self-deprecating British dialogue we’ve come to love delivered by stars such as Hugh Grant, the adorable Kevin (Freeman) sits on what is presumably his sofa alongside one of his best friends Julian (James Lance), trying to work up the courage to call a woman who has given him a number which for once, he thinks is actually real. Being averse to answering machines, he borrows his buddy’s cell phone only to realize that once the number to Amanda (Neve McIntosh) is dialed in, the phone registers it, prompting Kevin to realize that his friend may have already dated the woman in question and so begins one of the funniest and most realistic short films available on iTunes as we watch the saga develop with three cell phones calling each other back and forth, a mini-soap opera spilling out before us for our enjoyment. Funny, sad, and with the impressive quality of feeling like we’re peering into a typical evening of life being lived, Call Register is definitely worth a download.

Check out Call Register

Call Register

The Astronaut Farmer

Director: Michael Polish

Although I grew up during the wake of the devastation after the crash of the US space shuttle The Challenger, like most kids, I wanted to be an astronaut. While inevitably like most that go through a “space phase,” I eventually outgrew my early ambition but for some, those childlike dreams are never forgotten. Take for example, Charlie Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton) in the newest film from the Polish brothers, The Astronaut Farmer. A former Air Force officer on the fast track for NASA, Farmer found himself the victim of circumstance after a family tragedy forced him to leave the service to keep the family farm afloat. For years he’s been a devoted husband to wife Virginia Madsen (always a joy to watch) and his three children but when the film begins we learn that in addition to his domestic duties he’s not so quietly building his very own high tech rocket in the family barn, training his family to serve as mission control for his forthcoming launch. While the film does border on satire at times, I found myself completely enthralled by the sheer beauty of not only the cinematography and earnest portrayals by its cast but the refreshing lack of cynicism and the Frank Capraesque feel the film evoked which had me thinking that old filmgoer’s cliché that this is one of the films they no longer seem to make anymore, which would explain its unfortunate box office numbers and lack of success in the theatres. As Charlie finds himself getting closer to the date of his impending orbit, the government starts to intervene concerned by the vast amounts of oil and equipment being purchased by the debt-ridden farmer, obviously worried about not only the man’s psychological stability but his status as a “homeland security threat” and camps of media and lawmen being to make the outskirts of the Texas ranch their home as well. Bruce Willis reunites with Bandits costar Thornton in a nice mini-cameo as a former Air Force buddy who goes out to visit his old friend and advise on the situation and the entire supporting cast, including Tim Blake Nelson as a loyal, well-meaning small town lawyer for Thornton all do a wonderful job of making what would seem to be such an incredulous storyline utterly believable. A truly unique and moving film for the entire family—it’s only fitting that Charlie ultimately names his little rocket that could “The Dreamer” for the film does remind us of that time long before cynicism and adolescent angst set in, before we started worrying about deadlines and due-dates, when we honestly believed that as our teachers and parents told us, that we could accomplish anything.


Director: Geza M. Toth

If you’re tired of the influx of bloated Hollywood animated films being released one after another with an over-abundance of celebrity voices, toilet humor and enough distracting subplots to try and entertain without reason, you may want to delve into the world of foreign animated film. Fans of the sort of sly, intellectual humor of animated works such as Triplets of Belleville will relish in this Hungarian Academy Award nominated short by writer/director Geza M. Toth. Fresh, adorable and with a delightful twist ending that plays on our expectations (quite a feat for a film with a running time of less than five minutes), we’re already laughing only seconds into the spectacle as we watch the opera singing maestro prepare for his big performance, with the aid of his diligent and borderline obnoxious robotic assistant. While I must say that the nuances and subtle usage of both CG animation and sound effects played even better on a second viewing, it’s an amazing accomplishment for the director as zero frames are wasted and every single piece of the work, whether it be a choreographed movement, expression, whir, or the pacing itself melds together beautifully in a way that seems to make the film a mini opera of its own. Maestro is a feast for the senses and one of the most intelligent animated works around made even more impressive by its lack of dialogue and sole reliance on the medium to tell its story. Check it out for yourself!

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The Golden Door

Director: Emanuele Crialese

In honor of the ancestors who had come to America before me (including some from Italy), I opted to see Emanuele Crialese’s Venice Film Festival award winning film about Sicilian immigrants making the long voyage to America at the beginning of the twentieth century on the 4th of July. Presented by Martin Scorsese, the film which admittedly begins slowly and with a rather unorthodox opening sequence that did have a few viewers squirming in their seats becomes far more gripping when our main characters are introduced and board the overcrowded ship to the new world, where they’ve heard that money rains from the sky and the seas are bountiful with milk. An excellent, understated Vincenzo Amato stars as Salvatore Mancuso, who along with his headstrong mother Fortunata (a scene stealing Aurora Quattrochi) and his two sons (Francesco Casisa and Filippo Pucillo) decide to leave their homeland only to be quickly befriended by Lucy Reed (Charlotte Gainsbourg) a down-on-her-luck Englishwoman who tags along with the Mancuso family only to later propose marriage to Salvatore in order to gain entry to America. Her story is a bit puzzling and vague—we’re left to our own deductions trying to ascertain what an Englishwoman is doing traveling from Sicily but it quickly becomes apparent that it may indeed not be her first attempt to get past Ellis Island and into America. While the film’s beauty, which recalls Malick’s Days of Heaven and some of the Sicilian scenes from Coppola’s Godfather Part II, dazzles the senses, there are a few drawbacks to the work as a whole including the decision by the director to utilize some modern music completely out of the blue and go into avant-garde dream/fantasy sequences which pull the viewer out of the story and call too much attention to themselves, making parts of the movie feel pretentious instead of natural. Overall, it’s a wonderful work that goes into greater detail regarding the harrowing struggle it was for our European ancestors to arrive in this country including not only a challenging, long and uncomfortable sea voyage but also the intrusive and overwhelming amount of both physical and mental tests they had to undergo on Ellis Island. The film would make excellent viewing in teaching history students about the immigration issue and indeed its debut here in America could not be timelier as we watch the events of the past including the dangers and discrimination begin to repeat themselves one more time with the hot button issue that seems to be a leading story on every night’s evening news, that of immigration.

Spring Forward

Director: Tom Gilroy

I happened to stumble upon Spring Forward accidentally at a local library one evening and noticing that Liev Schreiber was involved, took it home on a whim. After viewing the film, I became angry—not angry at the film itself as it was one of the most gorgeous, understated and moving American films to be released in the last few years but angry that, like many important independent works, it had fallen under the radar in cities other than New York and Los Angeles, left unnoticed on very few video shelves and left to chance to discover in libraries or on Netflix. It’s absurd to me that the latest cross dressing Eddie Murphy film Norbit or even the biggest summer blockbusters get so much advertising on everything from popcorn bags at the local theaters to ads during prime time television. However, movies that truly inspire, movies that are completely without a trace of cynicism, real “people movers” such as The Station Agent and Spring Forward are left by the wayside after being lauded with awards and critical praise from noteworthy critics and festivals across the country while most of the movies on multiple screens at local malls will no doubt earn numerous Razzie nominations. It’s a common problem with money and lack of star power being the most glaring reasoning, however, my goal here is to draw attention to a worthwhile film so I’ll get off my soapbox and urge you to track it down.

As the film opens we meet the always versatile Liev Schreiber who stars as Paul, a recently released convict who’d served time for armed robbery, on his first day on the job working for the local parks system in the Northeast. While Paul is nothing but apologetic and full of soul searching insight which seems to be the result of reading far too many of the new age, spiritual and self-help books available to him on the inside, Paul’s supervisor Murph (Ned Beatty who has never been better) is a man with the gift of wisdom, due in part to his age as he nears retirement but also in his ability to cut right down to the heart of any matter, forget all of the ways one can fixate on their situation and just be down-to-Earth and completely in the moment. Over the course of a year, the two begin to have a noticeable effect on one another as what first seems like a traditional coworker relationship evolves into something closer to father and son. It’s a rare thing in American film to see two men bare their soles for the length of a feature film and former award winning playwright Tom Gilroy, who as he told filmcritic.com was inspired by his own relationship with his father, proves to be a natural filmmaker, unafraid of letting scenes play out with silence or just long monologues back and forth, with complete trust in the intelligence of his audience. Other characters come and go including Peri Gilpin (Frasier) and Campbell Scott who both turn in nice little cameos but the most interesting characters, namely Murph’s beloved wife and his dying gay son Bobby who are never seen, are left conspicuously absent, living just as much in our minds as they probably would if we would have actually seen them onscreen. Instead, like most great storytellers, the film (nearly a novel in its own right), lives in our imagination—we feel that we not only know the two characters inside and out but also the people they’re discussing so often. In this summer of endless sequels which don’t expect much from viewers other than to simply rent an air-conditioned seat for two hours, clichéd as it is, the fresh air evident in independent works such as Spring Forward will prove much more satisfying. While most of the summer blockbusters one forgets on the way to finding their car in the parking lot, Spring Forward will stay in your mind for days if not weeks afterward.

Rent Spring Forward

Netflix, Inc.

The Mistress of Spices

Director: Paul Mayeda Berges

While Aishwarya Rai was starring as the Indian version of Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet in Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice, Chadha’s collaborator and husband Paul Mayeda Berges cast Rai to play the lead in his film version of The Mistress of Spices. Based upon the novel by the wonderful Indian writer Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (who also wrote the brilliant Sister of My Heart) and co-written by Chadha, Berges’s film uses the same sort of magic realist touches and fantastical fairy-tale like whims evidenced in Like Water for Chocolate, Chocolat, Simply Irresistible, and Woman on Top with this story of Tilo (Rai), a young woman trained to become a Mistress of Spices in her native land before journeying to San Francisco where she runs a shop. In her adopted homeland, Tilo spends her days helping her fellowman by letting the spices and the visions they cause guide her in helping give her customers exactly what they need or desire whether it be peace of mind, safety or help in setting a romantic mood. As the shopkeeper, we quickly learn that the beautiful Tilo is also limited by her ability to help—in order to stay selfless and not betray the spices, she must follow demanding rules including never physically touching another human being, never leaving the shop or using the spices for her own benefit. For the first part of the film, these rules seem to only inconvenience Tilo slightly but things change when she meets the handsome architect Doug (Dylan McDermott) and finds herself caught up in the middle of a love triangle with tangible chemistry between the leads that for once makes Tilo question her devotion to the spices and try to find a balance between her own happiness and duty to others. Gorgeously photographed and exquisitely tender—while it does seem a bit far-fetched and works infinitely better on the page, this lush tale brought to audiences in part by the Weinstein Company is a delightful romance that stands out from the numerous predictable entries in the genre available on a typical video store shelf. The film would make excellent fare for a romantic evening in and would of course, benefit from complimentary cuisine, especially the red peppers that populate numerous scenes. For those interested in Indian literature, you may want to check out not only Spices but other books by the author.

Alibris 190x112


Film Intuition Profiles: Jim Jarmusch

Jim Jarmusch
A Profile by Jen Johans

Originally from Akron, Ohio where he was born in 1953 to a film critic mother and Goodyear Tire employee father, Jim Jarmusch has since become one of the most iconic and often discussed independent filmmakers of the past twenty-five years.

At seventeen he relocated to Columbia University where he received his BA in English, developing a love for both creative writing and literature, with an emphasis on poetry.

Without any experience, he submitted some of his writing to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and became a film student, working with legendary directors Nicholas Ray and Wim Wenders who quickly became both friends and mentors.

When he received a Louis B. Mayer scholarship, the money was erroneously sent to him instead of to the school and he blew every penny making his first film Permanent Vacation, which failed to impress NYU to such an extent that they denied him a degree.

After Wim Wenders donated old film stock to create Jarmusch’s first feature-length work Stranger than Paradise which won him the Camera D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, NYU started using his name in their advertisements.

When Jarmusch made a joke about failing to graduate in an interview, the school promptly sent him an honorary degree, about which he famously told The Guardian UK that,“the degree along with $1.75 can buy you a cup of coffee.”

Despite the snub from his “alma mater,” Jarmusch’s first film Stranger than Paradise set the tone for his work to come—namely his minimalist style, love of Buddhist and Existential philosophy and inclusion of eccentric characters who live on the "margins of life."

Jarmusch’s films are mostly filled with lovable losers, oddballs and sometimes deadbeats, who are often played by musicians or comedians. Some viewers and critics love his work, some hate it-- in any case, if you do have a passion for independent cinema, he’s worth checking out, especially his first few films that not only revved up film-goers but also inspired filmmakers Spike Lee and Kevin Smith who have both said that they owe a great deal to Jarmusch’s work.

Besides introducing the new “beat generation” to American cinema fans, he also imported one of Italy’s finest to American audiences-- the writer/director/actor and comedian Roberto Benigni who made his first films under Jarmusch’s watch. The two men had originally met each other while at a European film festival, and after being bored from the proceedings they sought distraction in an alley to smoke cigarettes, and although neither could understand the other's native tongue and communicated via broken French, a fast friendship was born.

While his most recent film Broken Flowers has been called his most mainstream work and doesn’t accurately represent his earlier films such as Paradise, Mystery Train and Night on Earth, it still has his trademark love of character over story, traveling on the American open road and a cast of stellar actors that include Academy Award winners and nominees all eager to play even the smallest of parts.

It was written exclusively for Bill Murray and inspired by an idea from a friend and his long-term live-in girlfriend, filmmaker Sara Driver about a man who receives an anonymous letter informing him that he had unknowingly fathered a son nearly twenty years earlier. Bill Murray actually plays the straight man in the piece and lets his co-stars shine including Jeffrey Wright who steals every scene he’s in as his humorous neighbor Winston and the many leading ladies whose odd characters have literary and pop culture allusions.

As The New Yorker’s David Denby said Broken Flowers’s overwhelmingly female cast sticks true to Jarmusch’s preference that his female characters are usually much more interesting and alive than the men and you’ll notice it right away.

Note regarding Jarmusch: There's a wealth of more in-depth features, interviews and articles available online but this is the first in a feature entitled Profiles, which will hopefully inspire movie fans to uncover some wonderful work that-- fitting to the idea of Jarmsuch-- lies just outside the mainstream.

Filmography of Feature Work:
Permanent Vacation (1980), Stranger than Paradise (1984), Down by Law (1986), Mystery Train (1989), Night on Earth (1991), Dead Man (1995), Year of the Horse (1997), Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), Coffee and Cigarettes (2003), and Broken Flowers (2005).

Four Last Songs

Director: Francesca Joseph

Filmed entirely on the Spanish Mallorca Balearic Island and co-produced by the BBC, this Midsummer’s Night’s Dream tinged tale stars Stanely Tucci as a lackluster piano bar performer who dreams of staging a grand celebratory concert to honor the world-famous deceased composer who had made the same island his home. At the start of the film, as he tries to put his plans in motion, he realizes that he must gain the trust and commitment of both the composer’s widow Veronica (Marisa Paredes) as well as the man’s muse and mistress, Helena who claims she has never-before-heard sheet music that she’s willing to let Larry use for its world debut. Feeling neglected and jealous, Larry’s singer girlfriend Miranda (Jessica Stevenson) is even more threatened by Larry’s busy schedule with the unexpected arrival of Frankie (Jenna Malone), a young woman claiming to be the man’s daughter and the result of one single weekend fling in America nearly twenty years earlier. In addition to the ladies, he finds a rival in Sebastian (Hugh Bonneville), an ambitious entrepreneur aching to take over the event when his free-spirited brother Dickie (Notting Hill's scene stealing Rhys Ifans) arrives under the guise of repairing a family heirloom clock but with other news that will shake the residents. While the overpopulated story does make the film a bit uneven at times, it’s a charming film that always feels a bit like a fairy tale and should remind viewers of Lasse Hallstrom’s Chocolat in its inviting spirit, warmth of the community and gorgeous locale.