Permanent Vacation

Permanent Vacation ★★★

"I don't want a job or a house or taxes although I wouldn't mind a car, but I don't know."

Set against the entropic backdrop of late-1970s New York City, Jim Jarmusch's debut Permanent Vacation sedately charts the peripatetic rovings of Aloysious (Allie) Parker, an enervated young vagabond. While its desultory scenario is very much in keeping with its modest 75-minute run time, I couldn't help but find Allie's notably stilted affect somewhat disorienting. It didn't surprise me to learn that Chris Parker (who chose the name Aloysious for his character) was not a trained actor but in fact a teenaged transient enacting a loose version of his recent life experiences (I'm reminded of an extremely lo-fi My Dinner with André in this regard). In interviews Jarmusch has been admirably diplomatic about Parker's screen persona ("When I was setting out to do the film, I imagined that he'd be more flexible.") Allie's jejune equivalency with a youthful demise and a life well lived is subtly reflected in his cultural diet; he is seen dancing to bop king Charlie Parker (dead at 34), reading proto-surrealist prose poet Lautréamont (dead at 24) and preening before a mirror in a manner redolent of James Dean (dead at 24).

Notwithstanding what I regard as a grating central performance, there is much to like about Permanent Vacation. It is absolutely first-rate in the grime department, among the most battered visions of New York I've seen (and I go looking for them). I love the dissonant score from Jarmusch and Lounge Lizards bandleader John Lurie (who also makes a terrific cameo as a seasoned street musician) which reminds me of ESG in all the best ways. The film's best scene is a cameo turn by Frankie Faison recounting a fascinating joke in a dingy theater.

Points deducted for underuse of Sara Driver. Many points deducted for Allie walking away while John Lurie was playing.

Some stray notes:
-STRANGERS ARE STILL ALWAYS JUST STRANGERS
-CHRIS PARKER'S JAZZ DANCE IS ELAINE BENEZ-LEVEL EMBARRASSING
-REALLY BEAUTIFUL--LIKE A BUBBLE CAR
-THIS GUN IS MY LEGISLATIVE GUN
-THAT'S OUR FUCKING CAR!
-THAT DUDE WAS WILD-STYLE
-AND NOW MY FRIEND ARE CRYING
-YEAH PARIS GONNA BE YOUR BABYLON
-LET'S JUST SAY I'M A CERTAIN KIND OF TOURIST
-VIEW OF RECEDING MANHATTAN FROM BOAT RIPPED STRAIGHT FROM NEWS FROM HOME DOWN TO THE GULLS

In my New York movies ranked list.

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