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 for 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 where he worked with legendary directors Nicholas Ray and Wim
Wenders who 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
for Jarmusch’s first feature
Stranger than Paradise which won him the Camera D’Or at
the Cannes Film Festival, NYU started using his name in their advertisements and when
he made a joke about failing to graduate in an interview, the school promptly sent him an
honorary degree of 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
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 filmgoers 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.   

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’ overwhelmingly female cast sticks true to Jarmusch’s
preference that his female characters are usually much more interesting and alive than
the men and viewers will notice it right away.  

Permanent Vacation (1980), Stranger than Paradise (1984), Down by Law
(1986), Mystery Train (1989), Night on Earth (1991), Dead Man (1995), Year of the
(1997), Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), Coffee and Cigarettes (2003),
Broken Flowers (2005).
Jim Jarmusch: A Profile
By Jen Johans
(c) Jen Johans.   filmintuition.com
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