And throughout his oeuvre you can see the influence of everyone from Yasujirō Ozu and Nicholas Ray to his contemporaries like Wim Wenders, whom he often shared a director of photography and assistant director with—legends in their own right, Robby Müller and Claire Denis, respectively. In making Stranger Than Fiction, Jarmusch wanted to tell a story about missed connections, about the outsiders from their homes and from their own selves, unfolding with the ease of flipping through an album of snapshot photographs. When asked once what the film was about, Jarmusch simply said that it was “ a minimal story about Hungarian immigrants and their view of America,” but what he really wanted to say was that the film existed as a “semi-neorealist black-comedy in the style of an imaginary Eastern-European film director obsessed with Ozu and familiar with the 1950’s American television show The Honeymooners.” The latter description encapsulates so much of Jarmusch’s voice, as his films manage to combine a very specific kind of American ennui in their barebones narratives and self-style characters, yet his particular brand of filmmaking has always been antithetical to the Hollywood aesthetic, feeling much more akin to foreign cinema in its observational eye and choregraphed beauty.
Claire Denis once noted that what she likes best is to, “smoke cigarettes and listen to music. A perfect day for me is a day with coffee, cigarettes, and music, to quote Jim Jarmsuch.” And when you peer back on his work—from Stranger Than Paradise to his upcoming masterpiece Only Lovers Left Alive—no matter the narrative, the wonder of his work lives in the lingering moments of everyday life—watching the smoke waft from your cigarette and the stream rise from your cup of coffee, or the mundane moments of human interaction usually cut out or overlooked by directors in their quest for excitement. But it’s the way in which Jarmusch frames even the simplest of actions that creates a thrill and an intrigue that feels so much more potent and revelatory on the screen.