Cuyahoga Falls is a middle-class suburb of industrial Akron, Ohio, a grid of leafy streets and comfortable homes bordered by the river. When Jim Jarmusch was a boy, he knew to steer clear of the water because, while the town might be placid, the Cuyahoga river was toxic. Pickling acids had stained it bright orange. Factory detergents had put a white froth on its surface. In June 1969, a spark from a train set the Cuyahoga alight and the flames jumped as high as a five‑storey building.
Fifty years on, Jarmusch remembers it well. “It was not a pleasant thing to happen,” he says with the droll understatement that has become his signature style. “In fact, if you’re looking for a metaphor of modern American life, it doesn’t get more blatant than having your local river catch fire.”
Film-maker - Jarmusch - Movies - World - Details
As a film-maker, Jarmusch likes to make movies about the world’s little details; about drifters and seekers and the rambling detours that add up to a life. It’s an area of interest that has served him well, from 1984’s meandering, monochrome Stranger Than Paradise through to 2016’s soulful, meditative Paterson. But it’s hard to focus on the small pictures when the big one is so scary: when a river is burning or the whole planet’s aflame. He says: “It’s clear we’re living in an ecological crisis and the situation is getting worse and worse. We’re threatened by the denial of science and by corporate greed. If this is the path that we keep going down, then it is only going to lead to the end of the world.”
I first run into Jarmusch on the backstreets of Cannes in May this year, where his latest work, The Dead Don’t Die, opens the film festival as climate crisis protesters gather beside the Palais. A few weeks...
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