For me, I can think of two film visionaries who are “stop the world, gotta see their latest movie”: Wes Anderson and Jim Jarmusch. These two sit atop their respective cinematic universes and are mavericks. They’re that respected, and moviegoers love their films.
Many of you agree with me on this.
Anderson has continued to make films that you have come to expect to have: wit, colors, the set designs, and overall originality.
Jarmusch, on the other hand, commands attention because of his sheer willingness to do things on his own terms. Call it high-concept and post-modern minimalism, or any other seemingly contradictory stylistic reflections. Whatever it is, you are drawn to it and cannot look away. Better yet, you can’t stop talking about it.
We’re in for a treat this summer as the latest Jim Jarmusch film, The Dead Don’t Die, a zombie movie no less, hits CinéArts theatres on June 14th. It’s a return to genre movies for Jarmusch after the poetically beautiful Paterson from 2016.
Getting into the mind of Jim Jarmusch could be as intriguing as any of his films, so CinéArts was able to talk to two of his producers, Carter Logan and Joshua Astrachan. They can hopefully pick the lock and help us find some treasures hidden in the mind and methods of Jim Jarmusch filmmaking in The Dead Don’t Die.
Carter goes back many years and many films with Jarmusch. Their relationship is a collaboration that has kept growing. As he recalls, “I started working with Jim in 2004 on the film Broken Flowers, and kept working with him since.
“Our working together has grown over the years to the point of which I started producing films with him. That’s been the case for several years and films. But this film in particular gestated out of Jim’s desire to do something different and return to genre filmmaking.”
For Astrachan, this is his second collaboration with Jarmusch. He came on board when the movie Paterson was in development. “I was fortunate enough to take a look at Paterson when the script was presented to me and I loved it so much I sat down with them in the hopes that I could have some useful skills to bring to the project. So that’s how the fellowship of the three of us began.”
The two producers saw The Dead Don’t Die as a great way to have a lot of fun, albeit in a challenging way unlike any other collaboration with the acclaimed filmmaker. As Astrachan stated, “Jim makes films that are singular, from a very specific brew, that only he can make.
“His experience and imagination allow him to make these films with what looks like the simplest of means. You look like at any Jarmusch film and think ‘wow, how did that get summoned from what appears to be simple pieces?’ And on The Dead Don’t Die just the level of complexity of the technical elements is not typical of a Jim Jarmusch film.”
And Logan agrees with this stylistic ethic. “There were some unique challenges on Dead where Jim was taking a step not just in that he wanted to make a comedy with a large ensemble cast, but making a zombie film is a completely different set of challenges that Josh and I had to encounter.
“Jim was really diving deeper than he ever had before. The level of stunts, the incredible prosthetic make-up and practical effects, and finally visual effects were all on a level he had not approached before. So we had to determine how that weaved into Jim’s world, because he doesn’t approach these things the same way as any other director. We had to figure out how his vision translated into this whole set of crew, artists, technicians, which was so removed from Paterson.”
Astrachan sees the end result as something that will entertain audiences. “We hope that the blend of effects and make-up, stunts and Jim’s sensibility is on full display and makes the movie really wonderful.”
In a similar fashion like Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch can call on a group of talented actors time and time again to solidify his cast and complete his visions. Logan recalls how that makes his job more efficient, if not slightly intimidating. “They are definitely there for Jim and he wrote many of the parts for the actors that he worked with before and who love working with him.
“The challenge for us is that actors who are this good are very busy and can you map your schedule on a calendar so that it works for them and for the film? It was certainly a puzzle on this one but happily solved.”
Astrachan concurs on the puzzle aspect of bringing together such a stellar cast, adding that it really was a team effort to pull it off. “We couldn’t have done it without the help of our incredible first assistant director Atilla Yücer who really jumped in to figure out this complex map of scheduling as we were doing the same. It really took the three of us and our casting director Ellen Lewis to crack it.
“When you think about this whole cast, using the idea of a stew, there are such incredible flavors in this: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Selena Gomez, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Iggy Pop and others. Then think about how much fun every one of those actors is, and then add Jim? I hope that everyone who sees the poster, or sees the trailer, come out to see this film, because it is so much fun!”
One last item the producers wanted to emphasize in this case for seeing The Dead Don’t Die in a movie theatre. Working with an auteur who completely knows his craft and how to experience it, Logan and Astrachan understand and mirror the director’s intentions. “Jim has had along legacy of a really incredible career that was born in a theatrical space,” noted Carter Logan. “That’s where he envisions people experiencing his films.
“But this film in particular is best experienced sitting in a dark room with a group of strangers and feeling something that you can’t have in your living room by yourself. The Dead Don’t Die is a particular comedy, with a high level of artistry, and its interplay of the cinematography, effects, and sound design is meant to be experienced in a theatre.
“I think something is lost when it’s not on the big screen. Jim has designed it, and all of the amazing artists have worked hard to make this experience be seen with an incredible sound system, on the widest canvas possible!”
Astrachan concludes, “You will feel the world of this movie. And it is a singular world: music, sound, picture, space. You really feel the space as you enter into the world of Centerville. That feeling really happens in a theatre that is really unique.”
Like I said, it’s time for another night at the movies. Jim Jarmusch is back!