Jim Jarmusch's
notes & profiles of friends & heroes

On cartoonist R. Crumb, from The Life and Times of R. Crumb: Comments from Contemporaries, edited by Monte Beauchamp (St. Martin’s Griffin / New York, 1998), 181-2.

Back in the mid-to-late-seventies, when I was a student at Columbia College, I wrote a paper for a course called “Contemporary Civilization,” or something like that. Anyway, the subject of my paper was the work of R. Crumb, and after reading it the professor (whose name I don’t recall) called me in for an appointment. He informed me that he had no choice but to give me an incomplete for the course because the subject of my writing was unacceptable. I really don’t remember anything about the paper itself - most likely it contained comparisons of Crumb to the likes of William Hogarth, George Grosz, Max Fleischer, et cetera - but I do recall the professor telling me that, although my paper was “interesting,” a ”contemporary cartoonist” was not the proper focus for the course. I don’t remember if I argued with him or just walked out like a zombie, but I imagine that I probably had thoughts along the lines of: “Shit. I know he’s not gonna accept something on Albert Ayler or the MC5. I guess he wants something on Roy Lichtenstein or Le Corbusier ... Oh well, fuck it.”

Now, twenty-plus years later and looking back, I realize I had every right to kick that professor’s ass. Hogarth, Grosz, the Fleischer brothers, Tex Avery, Charles Addams, et cetera are great artists. And so is R. Crumb. In certain ways, he may even be the greatest of them all. But hell, this isn’t some contest, or some damn awards ceremony. This is just my opinion. The editor of this book asked for it, so there it is. R. Crumb is an original. He’s a great cartoonist, and that, in my book, deserves great respect. Our “contemporary civilization” is lucky to have him, and to have his work.

On William Burroughs in The Rolling Stone Book of the Beats - Forwarded by Steve Lescure

Burroughs is the true godfather of outlaw artists. He was always hovering in the shadows, always suspicious of human nature and authority. Burroughs made us look for what masks the truth. He was always suspicious about movies, saying the truth can't possibly be found in twenty-four frames a second. In the greatest sense, Burroughs made me think about what's supposedly permissible in art.

On Allen Ginsberg, from Rolling Stone 761 (May 29, 1997), p 44 - Forwarded by Steve Lescure

When I first read Ginsberg in my teens, I remember very specifically feeling things open up and thinking about the life ahead of me as being a lot more open than growing up to be a refrigerator repairman in Akron, Ohio - not that that's a bad thing. But "Howl" and "Kaddish," they just gave me a sense of possibility. It's one of those magic things when you're a kid in Akron: You read William S. Burroughs, you read Allen Ginsberg and you listen to Ornette Coleman. You come to New York, and you end up meeting those guys - it was amazing. I was in awe the first time I met Ginsberg. I guess I'm still in awe.

This is a note that Jim Jarmusch wrote for Samuel Fuller upon his death, published in Projections 8 (John Boorman & Walter Donohue, editors. Faber & Faber 1998), p. 405. Forwarded by Mike Carmona

Sam, I can see you now, having crossed that line into the darkness (or maybe into the light) and there, in some dimension of the world of the spirits, you've already cornered Mark Twain, and as you animatedly extol the virtues of the Linotype machine, the wonders of the handheld traveling shot, the old guy can't get a word in edgewise.

Sam, you're dead, though I never met a human more alive, more excited by the details of life. And by now you've located Beethoven - you've got him by the lapels and are laughing wildly. Your eyes are on fire, as is the cigar you're gesturing with just inches from the great composer's startled face. You're updating him on William Randolph Hearst, Al Capone, Darryl Zanuck, Jean Eagles, and her fatal overdose from heroin in 1929, on the storming of Normandy Beach and The Big Red One, on the New York Evening Graphic, Lee Marvin, Constance Towers, Jesse James... And then, maybe in the middle of your passionate and dramatic explanation of the American Civil War (brother against brother!) you suddenly realize that the man you're talking to is stone deaf. That Ludwig couldn't hear a word you're saying even is he did understand English! But you decide it doesn't matter and, chomping on your cigar, continue on, and anyway isn't that Dziga Vertov over there, in the corner of your eye, drinking and joking with Marie Antoinette?

Statement given to the Village Voice, the LA Weekly, Cahiers du Cinéma, and other publications, on the death of Robert Mitchum, July 1997.

One day while working on the set with Robert Mitchum on our film Dead Man, he looked stoically out toward the horizon and said to me, “Years ago I saved up a million dollars from acting – a lot of money then – and I spent it all on a horse farm in Tucson. Now when I go down there, I look at the place and I realize my whole acting career adds up to a million dollars worth of horseshit.” He said a lot of other unforgettable things to me during the brief times I spent with him. I’m really sad to hear of his death. But then I think, man, we’re so lucky to have all of his performances preserved on film. There was and is no other screen presence like his: dangerous, strong but guarded, ever-unconvinced by the actions of those around him, and that odd sense of someone smoldering on the inside but so damn cool on the outside. Now I just want to go home and watch Out of the Past, or Night of the Hunter, or The Lusty Men, or Macao, or Blood on the Moon and soak in every subtle expression and move, every word spoken by that low, mesmerizing voice; just anything Robert Mitchum ever did.

Excerpts on Nick Ray from Bernard Eisenschitz's book Nicholas Ray: An American Journey [translated by Tom Milne - Forwarded by Larry Da Silveira].

from pages 475-476
Jim Jarmusch: "So I ended up going back to school temporarily. Nick was teaching for a while, but after about a month he refused even to go inside the school. He was too weak to go, but I also think he didn't really like the situation of teaching in that kind of rigid institution. He insisted that if anyone wanted to study with him, they had to come to his home. In a way, he was taking the school's money to live off rather than for really teaching them, which I can understand; I kind of did the same thing to make my film. So I ended up not finishing school, but independently studying with Nick, and then becoming a friend of his. At first there were about six people who'd come once a week or so; then after two months it was down to three, and a month later, there was no one coming.
"I feel I learned more from Nick's character than about the specifics of directing, or even anything to do with film. I think I learned a lot about what kind of backbone it takes to stand up to all the confusing problems in film production. It seemed odd that he wasn't receiving any royalties or anything for his films... Before I even met him, he was like a hero to me, for his films; and then meeting him and finding that films were just one aspect of the way he thought about things... I almost feel I learned more jut talking to him about anything, books, music or baseball, anything besides the specifics of directing. He was always saying that the problem with film students was that they were only interested in learning aspects of film, and that they didn't look at paintings, weren't interested in music or other forms, and he couldn't understand that at all.
"There's a rock band, Television, whose first single Terry Ork produced. I remember going to see them -- in 1975 or 1976, I hadn't met Nick yet -- and outside the club where they were playing was a handwritten sign that said, 'Four cats with a passion -- Nick Ray'. Really passionate... He was always investigating things, things happening in other forms."

from page 488:
The day after Ray's death, Jim Jarmusch began production on his first film, "Permanent Vacation", which is "unofficially dedicated" to Ray. He had discussed the script with Ray, doing the opposite of what the latter recommended, eliminating the tensions and stresses he suggested. While filming, too, he rebelled against his apprenticeship, trying to win the trust of the actors instead of manipulating them as he rather suspected Ray had done. It was only after his second feature ["Stranger Than Paradise"] that Jarmusch thought he understood the method better. "He never said the same thing to two actors, even if they were playing a scene together. He never attacked from the front, he was very devious. Telling each of the protagonists something different, he could control the scene better. But he took enormous risks, too. He was on a tightrope, there was a grave danger of everything overbalancing, that it wouldn't work. That's why Ray's films are the finest in Hollywood, but also the most uneven."

Also read Jim’s introduction to a book about the artist Joe Coleman, Original Sin : The Visionary Art of Joe Coleman (Gates of Heck Inc, 1997)