I remember when I was watching Only Lovers Left Alive, a film that would ultimately capture my whole being, and the sequence with Yasmine Hamdan performing Hal occurred, towards the end of the movie. I’m not sure I can even describe that feeling in words, but it was like hitting that point when you sensed you were finally completely drawn into the world of the two characters, dark and timeless and otherworldly and overwhelming. I sometimes listen to that song, but the effect is not even closely the same. For me, that song lives in that film. The two forms of art form a common language. The song was not composed for Jarmusch’s film, and that makes its effect all the more striking. When Tilda Swinton’s character, Eve, suggests that Hamdan should be better known, Tom Hiddleston’s character, Adam, says she shouldn’t, because “she’s too good”. Maybe the song is only meant to come alive in the film, in that story, because I am not sure an appropriate moment exists in real life. Maybe only in Tangier, “a place where, unlike Marrakech, the old world and new world are not separated by a gulf as though looking at each other. It’s all mixed,” as the director described the atmosphere and location for his film.
Music is so much part of Jarmusch’s films, it is woven into the celluloid. It is, reportedly, what kickstarts his ideas and imagination when he is writing a script. His soundtracks give voice to his drifters and dreamers, and, in turn, the characters come alive through the music and enter our own imagination. Let’s try to tap into that world by listening to this compilation of some of my favourite Jim Jarmusch movie soundtracks.
Jockey Full of Bourbon – Tom Waits (Down by Law, 1984) / Only Lovers Left Alive – SQÜRL (Only Lovers Left Alive, 2013) /
Dead Man – Neil Young (Dead Man, 1995, main title) / There Is An End – The Greenhornes, Holy Golightly (Broken Flowers) / Marvin Gaye (Broken Flowers, 2005) / Funnel of Love – SQÜRL (Only Lovers Left Alive) / El que se tenga por grande – Carmen Linares (The Limits of Control, 2009) / Hal – Yasmine Hamdan (Only Lovers Left Alive) / Pain in My Heart – Otis Redding / I Put A Spell on You – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (Stranger Than Paradise, 1984) / The Memphis Train – Rufus Thomas (Mystery Train, 1989) / Chaucer Street – John Lurie (Mystery Train) / Ealking through the Darkness – Tekitha (The Way of the Samurai, 1999) / Crimson and Clover – Tommy James & The Shondells (Coffee and Cigarettes, 2003) / Not If You Were The Last Dandy On Earth – Brian Jonestown Massacre (Broken Flowers) / Mystery Train – Elvis Presley (Mystery Train) / Louie Louie – Richard Berry (Coffee and Cigarettes)