Independent movie directors frequently churn out interesting movies. And by that most people mean different (or did I just mess that up?). But if someone were to ask me what I thought of certain movies by certain independent directors, I would think intimate. Often, the movies reveal too much about the directors themselves (well hello Wes Anderson, we know you love the kinks). And then there are other times, when the movies reveal too much about you. This facet especially, can seldom be captured by the expensive, glittering, larger-than-life, populist films. How can such movies afford to show you glimpses from your own life, when you pay good money to forget exactly that for a while?

This feeling of intimacy was reinforced when I plowed through Jim Jarmusch’s impressive repertoire. Indeed, he is the man who is sometimes, somewhere credited as the father of the American Independent Film Movement (so really, who better than the man himself for a commentary on indie films). As I watched Stranger than Paradise, I remarked at how well the movie came together, not because it paced successfully through to a conclusive end (as only how a winning story should), but because it paced languorously, scene-by-scene, onward through to no logical end, no real conclusion, leaving that subdued, confused feeling in your chest because the credits are rolling but you are yet unsure if you should get up from your seat. I sometimes get that feeling when I try to ascertain if I have achieved my short-term goals (yes, there are no upsides to being a planner). After that mental tick-off the list, I feel a strange sense of disquiet, waiting for life to stop for a second, for the credits to roll, to get up from my seat, stretch my arms, and head towards my bed to switch off for the night. But nothing happens. There remains, as always, more short-term goals to accomplish, more movies to watch.

Broken Flowers, in contrast, actually had a linear narrative that was headed towards the finish line, or so it tricked me into believing again. The ingredients were ready and waiting. There was a plot, a protagonist, a receding character with a receding hairline who injected ironic humour in short bursts at irregular intervals, fast cars (ok, not really) and hot women (will you look at Tilda Swinton?), and oh yes, a mystery waiting to be solved. There had to be a conclusive ending, I calmed my fluttering heart. There just had to be. This time round, there were multiple, discrete stories within a story, and multiple, coupled scenes within those stories. But the whodunit question was never answered. Indeed, the movie even recognized my growing trepidation, and threw random faces at me. Maybe him? It seemed to taunt me. I sighed and settled back. There was a vague thread of reconciliation reaching out to me. The movie was trying to tell me something, something else altogether. But I think I had stopped paying heed to the signs, a long, long time ago. You hear what you want to hear, you see what you want to see, and when you realize that it has all been one horrible mistake, you stop for a second, take stock, reorganize, and continue trying to fit the mismatched jigsaw pieces.

And then there are, of course, just stories. Simple, solitary, specific stories. Characters weaving in and out of the larger narrative, often never even bumping into each other, when they really, truly should. A Night on Earth is probably my favourite Jarmusch movie. Filled with stories of such significance that they can become your life’s marginalia or paraphernalia, depending on who is watching. It satisfied that gnawing urge to see something through to its logical conclusion, at least once every thirty minutes. Equating a provisional finale with meaning, magnitude or fulfillment helps me get by, I realized with a start. But how did Jim know that?

Really, how?

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