‚Permanent Vacation‘ schlendert hypnotisch durch Brooklyn
This movie is split into several independent scenes, almost like seperate paintings in a gallery. What connects them is Allie, the main character, and the shabby streets and abandoned buildings of some neighborhoods of New York. Every scene focuses, besides Allie, on one more or less disturbed character, almost like a human zoo. After a few words are exchanged, Allie leaves them, and no deeper connection is made. That’s it. In the end, he departs on a ship headed for Europe. Our limited insight into why he does what he does comes mainly from two voice overs in the beginning and the closing of the film.
I wasn’t bored for a single second, something that seems to be a huge issue for other people when they watch this film. The slowness, the surreal dialog, the excentric characters and the morbid backdrops combined with a very strange music had some sort of hallucinatory effect on me. It was not only a look at a past era, with some shots reminding me of Edward Hopper paintings, but also into the condition of the drifters and lunatics who populated those streets. It is arguably a pretty superficial look without an attempt to develop any of the characters. I’m not really sure why this should speak against this particular film, since it not only defies character development, but also any conventional structure, plot or storytelling. To consciously create a debut movie that a lot of people will find „boring“, without trying to go for some obvious effect, is a pretty bold move in my eyes. It would be easy for a more biased person to think that the scenes drag on only for the film to reach it’s feature length.
It is obviously a low budget production of someone trying out different approaches, but it also clearly has everything that would later make a typical Jarmusch film. The long silent pauses, the odd people, the run down locations, the still frames and, lastly, the music. I almost feel as if Jarmusch’s more recent Only Lovers Left Alive is a variation of this film.
The film is an experiment with technical flaws that I am not really qualified enough to completely point out, but at it’s core it has a strange and haunting quality. It had me thinking about it a few days after watching, something most other films don’t accomplish.