In the Key of Jarmusch

By Simon Reynolds | May 19, 2009
In the Key of Jarmusch - LEADPHOTO

Renowned music writer Simon Reynolds takes a melodic journey through the soundtracks of five Jim Jarmusch movies, from Stranger Than Paradise through to The Limits of Control.

Perhaps no director has more fully mapped out the landscape of contemporary music in his movies as Jim Jarmusch. While he’s pulled together traditions and genres from around the globe––using Ethiopian composer Mulatu Astatke, for example, in Broken Flowers––he continually returns to rock, tracing out its regional roots and new transformations. He also often casts rock musicians. Performers like Tom Waits, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Joe Strummer, Iggy Pop, The RZA, and Jack and Meg White of the White Stripes have popped up in his films as well as on their soundtracks. In Mystery Train, Jarmusch makes Elvis Presley and Sun Studios key plot points. In Year of the Horse, he makes rock the movie’s subject.

FilmInFocus asked music writer Simon Reynolds to guide us through several of Jarmusch’s films to see how carefully the music and movie are matched, as well as how the director’s choices evolved and played off each other.  Stranger Than Paradise is the first of five films by Jarmusch that Reynolds covers. In the following articles, he also addresses the music of Down By Law, Dead Man, Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai and The Limits of Control.

In the Key of Jarmusch: Postpunk Chamber Music
Simon Reynolds on Jim Jarmusch’s use of music in Stranger Than Paradise.

In the Key of Jarmusch: A New Orleans Musical Gumbo
Simon Reynolds on Jim Jarmusch’s use of music in Down by Law.

In the Key of Jarmusch: Ragged Western Riffs
Simon Reynolds on Jim Jarmusch’s use of music in Dead Man.

In the Key of Jarmusch: The Zen of Breakbeats
Simon Reynolds on Jim Jarmusch’s use of music in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.

In the Key of Jarmusch: The Music of Life (and Death)
Simon Reynolds on Jim Jarmusch’s use of music in The Limits of Control.

You can also listen to a selection of excerpts from these soundtracks here.

And click here to watch Scott Hou from NYC record store Other Music discuss the doom metal bands featured prominently on The Limits of Control's soundtrack.

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