Edgy Bible Study: Jim Jarmusch & Neil Young Read The Old Testament

Jim Jar­musch, that gor­geous­ly coiffed doyen of cin­e­mat­ic cool, made movies slow and under­stat­ed at a time when Hol­ly­wood increas­ing­ly cranked out flicks that were quick, slick and vac­u­ous.

From his ground­break­ing, huge­ly influ­en­tial sec­ond fea­ture Stranger Than Par­adise (1984), Jar­musch made a string of movies filled with lacon­ic down-and-out hip­ster, clever nar­ra­tive eli­sions and great music. Jar­musch was a vocal­ist for the No Wave band The Del Byzan­teens and his affin­i­ty for musi­cians is clear in his movies. Tom Waits played lead in Down By Law, Clash front­man Joe Strum­mer had a major role in Mys­tery Train and his omnibus movie Cof­fee and Cig­a­rettes fea­tured Iggy Pop, the White Stripes and a good chunk of the Wu Tang Clan. (See our pre­vi­ous post: Jim Jar­musch: The Art of the Music in His Films.)

So it sur­prised pret­ty much nobody when Jar­musch came out with the con­cert doc­u­men­tary Year of the Horse in 1997, about rock god Neil Young and his peren­ni­al band Crazy Horse. Young pre­vi­ous­ly record­ed the haunt­ing sound­track for Jarmusch’s psy­che­del­ic West­ern mas­ter­piece Dead Man (1995) and appar­ent­ly they hit it off. Jar­musch fol­lowed Crazy Horse on their 1996 tour and the result was a messy, ram­bling work that mir­rored the rough, ram­bling music of Crazy Horse. Jar­musch shot much of it in Super 8mm film stock and then blew it up to 35mm. For much of the film, espe­cial­ly dur­ing the con­cert sequences, you get the sense of watch­ing a Seu­rat paint­ing in the mid­dle of a jam ses­sion.

The movie didn’t do well com­mer­cial­ly. Roger Ebert, for one, hat­ed the movie with a white-hot pas­sion. But there were moments in the film that are pret­ty great. One, which you can see above, shows Jar­musch and Young hav­ing a dead­pan con­ver­sa­tion about the Bible.

The clip opens in 1978 when Young has been but­ton­holed by some kook who says that he’s Jesus. Just before he ducks out of the con­ver­sa­tion Young quips to the would-be prophet, “hope you make it this time. Last time was rough.” Cut to 1996; Jar­musch and Young are in the back of a tour bus and may or may not be high. Their con­ver­sa­tion, how­ev­er, is def­i­nite­ly stony. It wouldn’t be out of place in one of Jarmusch’s fic­tion films either. Young states, “The Bible is quite a book… What’s the old tes­ta­ment?” The film­mak­er responds, “The Old Tes­ta­ment is before Christ… It’s Moses and all that. And it’s when God is real­ly pissed all the time.” Jar­musch then reads a par­tic­u­lar­ly gory pas­sage from the Book of Ezekiel to illus­trate his point.

Below you can watch a video of Young and Jar­musch talk­ing about how they came to col­lab­o­rate with each oth­er.

via Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jim Jar­musch: The Art of the Music in His Films

Unseen Scenes from Jim Jarmusch’s 1986 Jail­break Movie Down By Law

Har­vard Presents Two Free Online Cours­es on the Old Tes­ta­ment

Free Online Reli­gion Cours­es

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.

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