FEATURE: Paul Thomas Saunders – Bunch Of Fives | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Ahead of his performance at Sage Gateshead as part of their excellent New Year New Artists run of gigs, talented singer songwriter Paul Thomas Saunders was kind enough to share his five favourite Jim Jarmusch films. 

Mystery Train
Mystery train is a masterpiece. It’s made up of three stories, but for me, the first ‘chapter’ which follows a Japanese couple on a blues pilgrimage to Memphis is the deal-breaker. They’re greeted by a rotting corpse of a city that’s pretty much the self-fulfilled prophesy of everything blues stood for when it came ringing out of Beale Street almost a century ago. For me, that couple are one of the leading duos in cinematic history – their characters are so nostalgic and completely embody what it’s like to be a teenager and totally immersed in whatever your record collection is made up of. They live and breathe the rock ’n’ roll… for me, it was vacuous indie. Also Joe Strummer is in it which is pretty cool.

Down by Law
This is the first Jim Jarmusch film that I saw. His films completely reframed how I viewed cinema and re-contextualized my approach to production and songwriting. There’s lessons to be learned, by anyone who creates anything, in the respect he has for his audience. He is the antidote for the era of instant gratification, as each scene fearlessly suspends allowing you to take in every nuance of the composition and character. Down by Law is no exception, as John Lurie (Wild at Heart), Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful) and Tom Waits (general demi-god) cascade through monochrome moments of beautiful and madness, for the most part, in a 6 by 8 foot prison cell.

Only Lovers Left Alive
This film is a good entry point for anyone who hasn’t seen a Jarmusch film before. The soundtrack, predominantly by Jim Jarmusch’s band SQÜRL, is mind-blowing – it’s a complete fucking testament to the holy-grail of artistry that is his brain. The film itself is a modern day vampire story, except rather than being blood hungry Topshop models, vampires have evolved into hyper-enlightened intellectuals who derivatively refer to humans as ‘zombies’. Though, underneath the supernatural overtones it’s a really visceral piece about isolation and loneliness, themes that J. J. is fluent in by now.

Permanent Vacation
Permanent Vacation gets a bit of a berating from wealthy white folk who make a living from watching, then writing about movies (I’m just jealous). It’s basically a feature-length punk-rock song, so maybe it’s achieved its purpose. It’s about a kid we all wish we once were, “Allie”, as he meanders through late 70s pre-gentrified New York meeting madcap after madcap. I’ve heard the words “plotless” and “indulgent” used about this film a thousand times, but it’s all lies, there’s a soul crushingly beautiful poetry to the kid and one of the best dance scenes I’ve seen since Pitch Perfect 2… wait… anyway… It was J.J.’s debut film, made whilst still at college, but the veins of what Jim Jarmusch would become run deep through it.

Paterson was a pretty big deal, it starred an actual Jedi too, albeit on the dark side. I love this movie because I can see so many parallels between my life and the protagonists which I won’t bore you with now, but… this film is a special one. It’s the purest of love stories about a bus driver who is secretly a poet. With a smaller budget than the latest NHS social care package (fucking small), it captures one of the most devastating scenes in celluloid history, that of a dog destroying a poet’s notebook. No dogs were harmed in the making of this movie.

Paul Thomas Saunders plays Sage Gateshead on Friday 26th January as part of New Year New Artists.

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