“This is my story, or, part of it.”
Yes, there’s a narrator, and it’s in color – two unexpected things from a Jarmusch film. Follows Allie (Chris Parker) for a few days as he bums around New York meeting a few characters and ultimately decides to leave. A practice run for Stranger Than Paradise, with Jarmusch exhibiting plenty of his spare urban cinematography.
Allie lives with Leila, but will quietly leave her at the end. At least she’s forewarned, as he tells her his “born on a train” philosophy. Allie meets crazed Vietnam vet Richard Boes (he had small parts in JJ’s next five films), visits his mentally ailing mother in a hospital, spies on a woman being vocal behind her apartment, converses with Frankie Faison (one of the three curbside shit-talkers in Do The Right Thing) at a theater playing an anachronistic Nick Ray film, then steals a car from a clueless woman (my favorite scene) and fences it.
Allie with mother:
He ends up at the pier, about to flee to Paris for a change of scenery. First he runs into another disaffected young man, a Parisian who fled for New York – a cheerful example of Jarmusch’s dry sense of humor.
I don’t know for sure that this is Sara Driver below, since two women are credited as “nurse.” She worked on most of Jarmusch’s movies, pulling two titles (production manager and assistant director) on this one. Funny enough, Driver was in the Times the day after I watched this, since a quality print of her long-lost first film You Are Not I was just discovered in Tangier.
Jarmusch, from 1980-81 interviews:
The story was inspired by how Chris actually lives his life … About half the things that happen to him in the film actually occurred to him, and the other half I made up for him. I thought up situations and placed him in them. … It’s more about accidental connections that move the audience than about dramatic action.
The question is how to treat social problems. A lot of people criticize my film politically; they say it’s an art film, it’s harmless, and does not take a clear stand. But whenever I watch a film – even if I almost completely agree with its political aims – it will still lose my interest as soon as I notice that the conclusions are self-evident, because then there is nothing left to discover.