12 Filmmakers’ Musings on New York and Cinema

Indie filmmaking icon Jim Jarmusch turns 60 today. He’s always seemed ageless, sporting a shock of gray hair since he was a teenager, immersed in the underground arts scene with a finger on the pulse of “unassuming cool.” Jarmusch, a longtime resident of the Lower East Side, has explored the hidden exoticism of the everyday in other cities, but he remains a quintessential New York filmmaker. “When I left Ohio when I was 17 and ended up in New York and realized that not all films had the giant crab monsters in them, it really opened up a lot of things for me.” As a musician, Jarmusch was a memorable figure in the city’s No Wave scene during the 1980s with his band The Del-Byzanteens. Last year, he even narrated a walking poetry tour of the East Village called Passing Stranger. We wanted to celebrate Jarmusch’s birthday by looking at other filmmakers who have shared their appreciation for New York City and the way it helped shape their oeuvre. See what they had to say about their favorite New York films, and read their musings on life in the city and its enduring influence on cinema.

Jim Jarmusch

“It was a really interesting time in New York in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and the music scene was really, really interesting because you didn’t have to be a virtuoso to make music, it was more about your desire to express things. That period was really, really important, because there were a lot of different artists — musicians, filmmakers — that had this ‘make-it-in-the-garage’ aesthetic that was really inspiring and really good. It was not about trying to be famous or have a career, or be a virtuoso, or be flashy. It was more like having real emotional feelings that you expressed through whatever form, mostly by picking up guitars you didn’t really know how to play and bashing away on them.”