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Jarmusch: The Production Journal

(All photos: Eugenio Caballero/Courtesy of Focus Features)

"Our production designer, Eugenio Caballero, won an Academy Award for Pan's Labyrinth—a totally different kind of film—but we were just so much on the same plane. He made this fantastic production notebook and I hope someone publishes it: scraps of color, images, drawings, postcards taped into it. It was sort of his log book of developing ideas. And then Chris [Doyle] and I would look through it constantly."

On the Script

"My script for this film was initially only a 25-page story, but throughout that story it said, maybe 15 times, 'He looks at so-and-so as though looking at a painting at a museum.' I was going for a kind of trippiness, a way of looking at everything in a different way. I kept accumulating things as we went along, without a completely drawn map from the beginning. We had more of a sketch of a map, which was the idea—to have freedom to expand it."

On the Setting

"This building, Torres Blancas, has a kind of Point Blank feel to it, but in a Spanish way. That's just such a rich film. I've seen it so many times, too, and I still see something different each time. In the way John Boorman uses the very ugly architecture of L.A., and yet makes something almost Alice in Wonderland about it with the reflective surfaces. There are moments you don't know if someone's interior or exterior until they move past some surface. All that kind of stuff we were kind of devouring."

On the Curves

"I've always been confused by the idea of right angles in architecture. Why does everything have to have right angles in our culture? Because it fits in there gridlike, Cartesian way of thinking, but people live in yurts, teepees, and things that are circular, which is much more natural and in a way efficient sometimes for heat and stuff. Torres Blancas is made of all these curves, and none of the apartments are the same in it. They used to have a restaurant on the top floor, and there are dumbwaiters in every apartment, so when they built it, the idea was, you could call up the restaurant and your food could come to your apartment. It's an amazingly strange building, but I am not sure I want to live in it."

On the Film's Paintings

"One painting is by Antonio Lopez: a cityscape of Madrid. He's a painter I really love, an amazing painter. He spends fifteen years on each painting. And there's actually a film about him making a painting of a quince tree in his backyard that Victor Erice made. It's a beautiful film! He'd actually made a painting from the top of Torres Blancas, but I didn't use it because the city looks very different now. I found another landscape – still Madrid seen from a high building."

On Art

"I wanted him to go to a museum, like, four times in the script to look at one single painting and split. I wanted the paintings to echo something in the film, and I wanted them to all be Spanish painters. So I went to the Prado, I looked at Velázquez and all the classical stuff, but then I went to the Reina Sofía, which is their Museum of Modern Art, and I found the stuff that I wanted. I started with a Juan Gris cubist painting, which has a viola in it, which echoes the violin in the film, the shape of the naked girl, the guitar. The second painting is by Balbuena, who left Spain during the Civil War and lived in Mexico. That's the reclining nude that you see before he goes and then sees the nude girl."

On the Soundtrack

"For the soundtrack, bands like Ghost and Sun 0))) and Earth and Boris had a kind of trippiness that I wanted. I had a kind of file of music from which I hoped to build a score, which we did, except for a little music that my band made for the film. Our band? We play very slow, kind of trippy stuff. I like these bands that aspire to be the slowest bands in rock and roll; I think Sun wears the badge, but Earth is close – very slow stuff. I also used the Adagio from Schubert's string quintet, which is so extremely slow, it's the same thing in a different century. It's just with a string quintet instead of electric guitars."

On Painting

"The last [painting in the film] is by Antoni Tàpies, who is a Spanish painter who was one of the first to start incorporating found textures of things: dirt, brass, objects. And this is way before Julian Schnabel's plate paintings. His painting just looks like a sheet, which echoed to the girl in the sheets and that picture frame he looks at in the house: a painting just covered by a sheet. I was just trying to find variations again and echo things throughout the film."

On Variations

"The idea of variations was there from the beginning. Variations are at the heart of human expression. Bach is a master of varying things, probably because he had so many kids and he needed to get paid, and said, 'Well, I will just use some of that and make something else out of it...' And then of course Warhol, fashion, architecture, popular music, everything."

On Bill Murray's Hideout

"The little house in the end of the movie? Joe [Strummer] lived in Spain, near where that little house is, and after he died, his wife Lucinda said to me, 'You know, every time we drive by this one house, Joe always said, 'We gotta show Jim this house; he's gonna film something there someday.' And then he was gone. But in fact I did."

On Joe Strummer's Hideout

"When I would visit Joe in Spain, a couple of times he picked me up in this beat-up black pickup truck that on the back said 'La vida no vale nada.' We use it in the film. That came from Joe also. At the time, I thought it was just some Strummerism. Then I found out it's a Cuban revolutionary song. Translated literally, it's like, 'Life is worth nothing.' But it doesn't quite work that way. A poet said to me years ago, 'Reading poetry in translation is like taking a bath with your clothes on.' It doesn't quite work."

Jose Mora (left) North Conduit and McKinley Avenues, Cypress Hills. On September 4, 2006, 11-year-old Mora was on his way to the barber for a back-to-school haircut; that week, he was to start the sixth grade at nearby Junior High School 302. He was struck by a Honda while walking his bike across an intersection.

Jonathan Neese South 4th Street and Roebling Street, Williamsburg. On August 12, 2006, Neese, a bike messenger known as “Bronx Jon,” was struck by a livery cab while cycling from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

Sam Khaled Hindy (left) Base of the Manhattan Bridge. On November 16, 2007, Hindy was run over after mistakenly entering a Manhattan Bridge lane reserved for cars.

Habian Rodriguez Main Street and Horace Harding Expressway, Flushing. On September 1, 2007, Rodriguez collided with a city bus and died 30 minutes later.

Elizabeth Padilla (left) Fifth Avenue and Prospect Place, Park Slope. Commuting to the Brooklyn Bar Association on June 9, 2005, Padilla swerved to avoid the open door of a parked P.C. Richard’s truck. She lost control of her bike and fell underneath the wheels of an ice-cream delivery truck.

Juan Luis Solis East Gun Hill Road and Bouck Avenue, the Bronx. Attempting to pass a double-parked car on June 22, 2007, Solis was struck by a box truck and died of severe head trauma. The truck did not stop.

Jeffrey Moore (left) Chauncey Street and Rockaway Avenue, Bed-Stuy. According to witnesses, on May 29, 2007, Moore was run over (twice) by his girlfriend Jeanine Harrington. She was indicted on charges of murder and criminal possession of a weapon (her Nissan Pathfinder).

Derek Lake Houston Street and La Guardia Place. On June 26, 2006, Lake reportedly skidded on a steel construction plate and was crushed underneath the wheels of a passing truck.

Elijah Armand Wrancher (left) Springfield Boulevard and 130th Avenue, Springfield Gardens. On August 28, 2007, 12-year-old Wrancher attempted to ride his bicycle while holding onto a moving truck. He lost his grip and fell under the truck’s rear wheel.

David Smith Sixth Avenue and 36th Street. On December 5, 2007, Smith was biking up Sixth Avenue when the passenger-side door of a parked pickup truck opened unexpectedly. He was knocked into the path of an oncoming truck.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Anthony Delgado (left) Palmetto Street and Central Avenue, Bushwick. Shortly after midnight on April 29, 2007, 13-year-old Delgado borrowed a bike to head home from his friend’s baptism party. As he crossed the intersection, he was struck by an SUV.

Carolina Hernandez 57th Avenue and Junction Boulevard, Elmhurst. On August 16, 2007, Hernandez was riding to a mall when she was struck and killed by a Chevy truck. The driver pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

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