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Joshua Whiting

digital librarianish person, writer, creator


I Watched Permanent Vacation, 1980

It’s actually kind of inspiring how bad this film is.

Permanent Vacation Poster Image

I watched this in scattered 15-20 minute increments over the course of four or five days, due to either getting bored or falling asleep at each attempt to continue. I nevertheless kept coming back out of some stubborn need to see it through. When I found myself inexplicably awake at 5:30 this Saturday morning after having fallen asleep to it yet again the night before, I couldn’t think of anything else to do, so I loaded it up and re-watched the last few minutes of it.

I’m convinced now there is a purposefulness and assuredness to its badness, a kind of punk obstinacy against making a good or entertaining film. It also seems a possibility that the whole film exists simply as an extended setup to tell the sick and clever “Doppler Effect” joke. And to just try out a lot of different things cinematically. Now that I think more on the film, there are many other jokes or situations that potentially could have been really humorous, but did not strike me as humorous as I was watching. Perhaps the bad acting and awkwardness serves the same disorienting purpose that noise/feedback/atonality serve in no wave, punk, and other experimental music?

The reason this film’s badness inspires me, or I should say gives me hope, is for my own creative life and for other creators: it is perhaps the best example I have encountered lately that one can make a thing that might be objectively awful, but come out from it having learned and grown, and proceed to make much stronger work in the future. Everything I saw and loved in Jarmusch’s later films (the humor, the obsession with music, the poetry, the awkwardly long, quiet, intimate takes) is already here in this film, but obscured. It is as if for his subsequent films he just had to learn to adjust and recalibrate settings to allow the humor and emotion to come into clearer focus. Or maybe he just needed a better lead actor, to be honest.

In the end I’m quite glad that I persisted in watching this seemingly terrible film and took some moments to think and write about it.

Watched in part for the Film School Drop Outs Challenge of 2017-2018 that I am still slowly, stubbornly, thoroughly working my way through in 2020. Week 34 - Revision (2017) - Movement - No Wave (1976-1985)

(First posted on letterboxd: https://letterboxd.com/jdwhiting/film/permanent-vacation/)


Posted:
Format / Genre: note social media status update film notes and reviews
People: Jim Jarmusch
Places: at home
Series + Sources: sharing things I like from Letterboxd Film School Drop Outs Challenge
Topics: art movies
Works Cited: Permanent Vacation
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