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  • 1212127 November 1998
    This film which is, as far as I know, the first one by Jarmusch, when he still studied to become a film director, is original in its way to reinstall 'realism' – somebody would say 'surrealism' – into film art. He tries to make us understand a special psychological type of our time, a 'tourist in life' on 'permanent vacation'. People having decided to follow that life strategy don't engage themselves in anything or anyone. They just do what they 'feel like', not caring about what that means to others. Others are not really human. They are looked upon as a tourist might look upon an exotic and alien tribe.

    However, they themselves also feel alienated and estranged, indeed. Why engage in anything? The home where I was born was bombed out 'by the Chinese', my mother is crazy, my father is dead, and there is no hope for the future.

    Jarmusch is convincing in his description of this psychological type which might be typical of our time. It might be a descripton of himself. But that is not what makes the film original. It is rather the way he succeeds in making that description.

    Already in this film he uses stationary cameras with horizontal, and sometimes vertical, views, and depicts the world, as exemplified by New York City, as ugly as it is to all of us, if we do not embellish it.

    What Jarmusch has to tell might be banal to some but it is certainly something that exists and is quite difficult to make understandable to us. Exactly like the opinion of the main character. But I think he has been successful in mediating such an understanding to us who have chosen a different life strategy.
  • Jim Jarmusch is a filmmaker I'll always admire and will see anything he puts out. Perhaps though my expectations of his student film, Permanent Vacation, were a little high as I thought this could be the link to Stranger Than Paradise as Who's That Knocking and Mean Streets were perfectly connected for Scorsese. This is not the case, at least from what I got from the film. It's an exercise in the mundane and plot less, a tale of a vagabond type character who may or may not be nuts, who has an insane mother, and usually just loafs around the more deconstructed and decaying parts of lower Manhattan. There are some chances for it becoming more interesting than it does, and it's really because it's a case of a filmmaker finding his footing and not getting there yet.

    A few bits are noteworthy in the kind of fascination that comes with watching Jarmusch's characters- like when Allie (Chris Parker) dances to the jazz record in his apartment, or the very random scene on the island. And there's a grin for a bit part for John Lurie. But there almost comes a point where the randomness becomes too diverting, and the script and (obvious) amateurs don't help matters. A monologue in a movie theater- which another commenter said was beautiful- is rambling and loses its point even as Jarmusch sorta goes back to it. Part of that scene is interesting, but it's before the monologue with the Nicholas Ray movie. Parker as an actor has that cool, quiet swagger that would be found in Stranger Than Paradise, but he also can't carry the dialog that well (particularly in the odd voice-overs).

    The end of the film caps it off as he just decides to leave New York City for good on a ship. This might have a little more resonance if what led up to it had one feeling much more for Parker than distance. Permanent Vacation is like a condensed, rough, patch-work example of everything that is wrong and sometimes right with Jarmusch's work, like an early demo from some rocker who hasn't quite got the gist of everything from his inspirations. What's right with the work is that it's very well shot, particularly for an ultra low-budget drama, co-DP'd by later talent Tom DiCillo. In the end, I almost found that the film was like a Godard work, though the ones really from the 80s as opposed to those of the 60s. It's got an artist's eye and the occasional touch of grace, but it's also a jumble of a sketchpad of what's really in the filmmaker's gifts. It is unique in that you can tell who made it, that it's not another write-off of a future hack. That it doesn't really spell the promise of Jarmusch's other 80's classics is harder to figure.
  • Jim Jarmusch's debut 'Permanent Vacation' is said to be his student film. It does have a certain student-film feel to it mostly because of the minimalism and the actors. It is an exceptionally well shot film. However, it also felt somewhat sketchy and a few dialogues felt out of place.

    In a way, 'Permanent Vacation' reminded me of 'Catcher In The Rye' as the story here follows a slacker in search for meaning in New York city (it's refreshing to see the non-glamorous, non-typical Hollywoodized but rawer side of the city) before taking a permanent vacation. The plot does sound simplistic and perhaps even uninteresting to some but the film is engaging as Jarmusch immediately gets his viewers involved into the subjective world of Allie. Whereas most of Jarmusch's films are conversational, 'Permanent Vacation' is more of a wandering. The story itself may be familiar in the filmworld but it also applies to today's society. The film's also tedious at times.

    Chris Parker is quite effective as Allie Parker. The rest of the actors, with the exception of Frankie Faison, aren't particularly impressive but that doesn't ruin the film.

    Although it may have some faults, Jarmusch's first experimental film is quite a compelling debut.
  • You could say the film was desperately in search of John Lurie, and by fate even found him. Buddhist punk. The psychedelic free jazz with chimes and gongs, creates this sense of the ancient across the film, contrasts his total emptiness such as yo'yoing across the street, raising the banal and minuteness of mankind into some aimless grandeur. The currency seems to be who trades in absurd monologues. I thought punk rock--till the other review said No Wave, and sure enough that was a thing; how adorable that American cinema once had movements. Closing shot is great and why some say directors never surpass their first film. NYC there is a mirage, immense, packed, and crammed, nothing more than an extension of his mind. Surreal with these waters flowing straight to the city as if they're built from the ocean. With the haunting free jazz, suddenly the metaphor payoff of an entire film, has not only managed to interpret the city and its inhabitants but manages to gobble up the entire collective as the conclusion of this non-story. Of course the whole film is a total failure of generation X aimlessness, but the end shot made me think the failure was larger, not personal.
  • Leave it to Jim Jarmusch to create haunting and elusive visual stories with static camera and sparse dialogue. 'Permanent Vacation' is no masterpiece and stands far from Jarmusch's greatest movies, but it clearly has the magic touch that makes the film live, and it doesn't feel boring.

    Jim Jarmusch made the film right after he dropped out of film school, and it is clear that he already had his unique vision and way of telling stories. The story follows slacker Allie (Chris Parker) on his quest to find the meaning of life. The film is seemingly plotless, without proper beginning and ending, not to mention the conclusion, but it has nice flow that ties all the quirky characters and pretentious philosophical conversations into whole.

    'Permanent Vacation' is very important to see if you are interested where Jim Jarmusch come from (and also Richard Linklater as 'Permanent Vacation' was major influence to his own 'Slacker').
  • This movie might be a gift for some with sophisticated and unusual gusto. However it lacks many details that are important for making a movie a fully fledged oeuvre and make it easy for a wide range of viewers to appreciate. So I would better tell about it's merits.

    1. Stunning, perplexing, pervasive, strange atmosphere. It's a very atmospheric movie.

    2. The protagonist may be annoying but this is the way he is! This is such a kind of a person so you have an opportunity to grasp it.

    3. Weird soundtrack helps you feel the atmosphere and dissolve the viewer's mind in the atmosphere of the film.

    4. The settings (images) which is pretty rare to see elsewhere.

    5. If you live fresh raw simplistic movies, this one is a good example.

    6. Raw sounds make you feel inside the movie.
  • Assured first film from Jarmusch is pretty tough viewing to begin with. Slow moving or not moving at all and ponderous, seeming inconsequential dialogue but then somewhere along the line we find ourselves captivated. Beautifully shot with ugly/beautiful still shots of back streets of New York. Apart from a scene showing the lead guy spray painting a sub title for the film and thereby seeming to plant the film within the late 70s or 80s, the rest of the 'action' gives more the impression of taking place in the late 60s/early 70s. It may well be that Jarmusch has not set the film in the past but that his cinematic influences are from that period. In any event this is well worth a watch and as with all the man's films there is a fiercely compassionate element. Even when the characters appear completely unappealing, we are somehow encouraged to feel some degree of empathy.
  • Arg! I almost want to give this movie an 8.

    But the thing is, although there are interesting parts, it is also often very dull.

    I could see what he was going for but too often I felt that the scenes, although interesting and fun, were lacking in depth.

    I did enjoy it overall but it was also a little hard to sit through.

    This was my first Jarmusch and I am looking forward to watching more. It felt appropriate because Sunday they're screening his 2nd feature at a local theater.

    It did have well directed scenes, and some felt very trance-like. The main actor is not fantastic but good enough, he does show acting talent so I'm curious if I'll see him in something again.
  • Since this is considered a student film, I must admit that I cannot come up with a better reason to fall asleep during class.

    "Permanent Vacation" is the darkly comic debut of acclaimed indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, and is unfortunately a somewhat boring film. It had plenty of things going for it, an unsettling and hypnotic musical score, a wild sense of dark humor, an interesting cast of side characters, and a beautiful visual style. However, Jarmusch sadly decided to craft this film's final product into a seemingly incomplete, ridiculously slow paced ride that is scattered with moments of genius throughout. There is plenty I liked about this movie, but it was just so TEDIOUS and DULL-this is a 70 minute long movie that really should have only been a 40 minute long movie. The main character is annoying and pretentious, a lot of the dialogue is cringe inducing (while some of it is actually pretty amazing), and by the end I just wanted to take a nap. This could have easily been a great film if Jarmusch decided to work a little bit more on crafting a main character that is at least somewhat bearable (he doesn't have to be likable, but please don't make him boring and obnoxious!), and made it less goddamn SLOW! I am all for slow movies ("Satantango" is one of my absolute favorite films), and there are a few scenes in this film that are excruciatingly slow paced but manage to work due to the slowness adding to the emotional depth and black humor of those scenes. However, a vast majority of the excruciatingly slow sequences in this film just made me want to beat my head against a brick wall so I could be entertained for once!

    This isn't a bad film at all, and I would recommend it to some degree for anyone whose interested, but I would still have to recommend it with caution because it is so, so very flawed and at times unbearably boring. But, at the very least there is a lot of great humor, visual flare, quirky side characters, and beautifully discomforting background music.

    Luckily, Jarmusch would improve his ways and skills by the time he made his follow up, break out feature "Stranger Than Paradise", which is not only one of the funniest movies of all time, but also one of my absolute FAVORITES!
  • Jim Jarmusch was an unlikely soul to emerge into the hectic world of film, hailing from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, but then again, so were many of his like-minded peers, who wandered their way into the independent filmmaking renaissance of the 1980's and 1990's. This was a period when everybody, regardless of skin color or social class, wanted to get their voices heard. This period, often called the "do it yourself (DIY) movement," is one that incited a chain reaction of young people who felt that they could show their experiences and voice their own themes on-screen, be them fueled with commentary on racial relations, a triptych about three souls in prison, a film about a clerk going in on his day off, a group of seventies goofballs raising hell in their town, and so forth. The domino effect of the independent film community during this time period was intriguing because with the evolution of home video and cheap, albeit expensive, video technology, ambitious and willing young men and women would see films made on a shoestring budget and think, "I can do that." It's a movement that has spilled over into the past decade and the current one, where one can make, edit, and distribute an entire film on their cell phone and have the world see it on the same device. What a time to be alive.

    With that being said, because of the state most of these filmmakers were in when they made these films - dead-broke, little means of professional or even competent productions, minimal editing skills, and even fewer means to polish the evident aesthetic shortcomings of many of these films - it's hard to expect many of these early works to be masterpieces. Consider Richard Linklater's It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books, which is more or less Jarmusch's directorial debut Permanent Vacation except with a self-referential statement firmly embedded in its title. Linklater was essentially stating shooting a movie, much like learning to plow or do another arduous and time-consuming physical activity, is impossible to learn by reading books. In response to his beliefs, rather than wasting away in a classroom, he got up and scraped together what he could to shoot a seventy-five minute musing about everything and nothing. I gave it a three out of four star rating a few years ago; it was a quirky effort that showed that, at the very least, everyone had a lot on their mind and was excited to unleash it bit by bit throughout the course of their respective careers, with Linklater being the ultimate headmaster.

    Permanent Vacation has similar charm without the insight, unfortunately. It stars Chris Parker as Aloysius Christopher Parker, whose opening line in the film is the declaration of his name and the fact that if he did indeed have a child, he'd be named "Charles Christopher Parker" just so he can have a son named "Charlie Parker." Aloysius is a drifter, slumming his way through life on a "permanent vacation" of sorts. He's forever a drifter, waywardly wandering from place-to-place and meeting some eccentric folks along the way.

    I refuse to go forward because Permanent Vacation is an experience in which secondary source summation doesn't do it adequate justice. I will go as far to say, however, that at only seventy-one minutes, this is a film that tests the patience of its audience considerably. It's about as disjointed as you can get, relying on a vignette-style that winds up offering less and less to grapple with each and every passing instance. Because of this, I found myself becoming disconnected throughout the entire experience, only being briefly brought back to the film when Aloysius delivered one of his insightful narrations that broke down his life and experiences in a way that was simultaneously revealing and alienating.

    Jarmusch toying with that dichotomy through a means that is meant to give us the unspoken truth is a very interesting ploy and those glimmers of subversion and gives us the revelation that this is a man seriously destined for directorial greatness. His film Down by Law is one of the most entertaining pictures from the 1980s I have yet to see, bleak and fascinating, uproariously funny and darkly fixated on the inevitable and the uncertain. Permanent Vacation is a footnote, much like Linklater's It's Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books. An adequate, if bland, appetizer with some notes of true zest and flavor that gets you more excited for the meal than it does about the product itself.

    Starring: Chris Parker. Directed by: Jim Jarmusch.
  • Coming to NYU? Going to live in the village? Perplexed by old timers talking about 'how the village/lower east side has gentrified? Watch this in the background as you sip your mocha with soy care of gentrification. The background shots are for real. See how parts of NY looked back in the day. Serves as brilliant photo-journal as that time but with motion.

    I moved to to village in 1980 away from Europe and this brought back so many memories not just of the urban landscape but the characters. It was the perfect antidote to the stale suburbs and perfect environment to write, act, dance, play music, make love and generally 'Express Yo'Self!'
  • Karl Self17 June 2009
    Let's not put too much lipstick on this pig. Permanent Vacation ... cool title, memorable lead, nice style and all that, but ultimately an often boring movie. The only thing that keeps this above the water is the simple fact that director Jim Jarmusch followed it up with some of the best movies of all time. So it's cool to see him blunder his way through his first oeuvre.

    The fact that our hero Allie is disenfranchised because his mother is in a mental institution might constitute the oldest plot device in the book. There is really no development, no suspense, nothing intriguing. Jarmusch commits the classic mistake of every first-time filmmaker; he has yet to learn that it's not enough to put a crass character before the camera. You have to make the viewer care about him. And unfortunately you can't do that by boring the crap out of the viewer. Allie is a high-strung, messed-up kid who could franchise disenfranchisement if only he could be bothered. He has a girlfriend that should rightfully be mine, who gets a kick out of dating a pretentious freeloader with a croaky voice. He meets a bunch of strange people, nicks a car, then gets the feck out on a boat. Cue amazing end sequence shot on a boat going away from Manhattan but looking back at it.

    Check it out if you're a spotty movie boffin with no social life.

    Give it a miss if you're more into Hannah Montana.
  • ej-3525 February 2005
    This film was a little hard to get through, although my jet-lag probably contributed to this. It did have that student film quality to it and the "permanent vacation" line was bad. I could have done without the poorly executed voice over, the content of which contributed to an amateurish nature.

    Then again, is immaturity necessarily a bad thing in movies? Perhaps in this one it perfects the depressed pretentious adolescent mood, whether intentional or not. This feeling and certain images from the film, dancing, the apartment, the girl (especially), the mother, the destroyed landscape, have stayed with me this past week ... a good sign. Not one for the impatient viewer.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    'the other's don't have planes' as he wades through rubble, on his way to a mental hospital to find his mum, yet after having gone to see some woman (gf?, sister?)who strikes up a staggeringly beautiful pose (for some reason or other), waking up on some rooftop, meeting some loony bin woman hysterical, passing by a musician on the street, meeting his Parisian other, leaving that staggeringly beautiful woman behind, getting on the boat and leaving us with a beautiful portrayal of NY in the last image. it's an apolitical film- indeed, spiritual- far from the silly pseudo-intellectual tripe of a woody allen or of the silly paranoid-race one of spike lee. one to be treasured.
  • dooleyben20 March 2002
    The monologue in the middle of this film is just about the most beautiful story I have ever heard. The only fault in the whole of this film is the point at the end where he says "I guess I'm just... on a Permanent Vacation, " and the fault here is really the actor's for overplaying this line, not Jarmusch's.
  • People seem to like this movie only because it's a Jim Jarmusch movie. Now, i'm not knocking Jarmusch, I loved Down by Law, but sometimes his films get a tad too pretentious for me. But I can usually overlook that. But this movie! I hated the main actor, I hated the dialogue (seriously, not even most hipsters talk like that!)and I hated the plot. There were some good shots in there, but all in all I found it irritating, and Aloysius reminded me of why I hate hipsters so much. Every time he opened his mouth I wanted to punch him in the face. Whenever he tried to act cook in front of the girl, I wanted to close my laptop screen and just abandon it. I ended up making it through about forty minutes before turning it off. So I don't know, maybe this was a hidden masterpiece. But I sincerely doubt it, and I don't intend on re watching it to find out. I rate it as a three only because of some of the cinematography.
  • ms-5248626 May 2016
    Warning: Spoilers
    This movie is split into several independent scenes, like separate 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 eccentric 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.
  • Jim Jarmusch made this movie when he had probably 26 years old.

    Since my point of view there is no a specific script structure. It seems that he is starting to experiment some ideas and possibilities, like bizarre characters and locations in which the main character wanders.

    It appears that there is quite improvisation at all levels. Anyway, at the end i had the feeling that there is no much communication between viewer and director.

    I see it like an exercise in style.

  • gavin694220 January 2014
    A young slacker (Chris Parker) wanders New York City searching for some meaning in life and encounters many idiosyncratic characters.

    From the plot, this sounds much like Richard Linklater's film "Slacker". And while I have no doubt that Jarmusch was an influence on Linklater, there is clearly no direct connection here... this is not the quirky film of Linklater, but a dreary and more depressing vision.

    Aside from the incredible dance sequence, there is not a large amount of action. Of course, that is not the point -- there are a series of mad characters, which could be seen as "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" transported to New York City, with a jazz spin.
  • This one is really for Jarmusch completists only. As stated above, it is his first film and he was still a little way off being the interesting director he became. I have no problem with long slow films, but Permanent Vacation has a kind of doleful lethargy about it that transfers to the viewer. It's not helped by having the lead played by a somewhat unsympathetic and irritating teenage actor. The dialog is vague and slightly pretentious and doesn't add up to much really.

    I was looking forward to seeing the run-down and grotty parts of New York but the one or two derelict buildings could have been anywhere really. Little atmosphere is conjured. The photography is competent but nothing startling. No really beautiful moments - even the long credit sequence of the NY skyline slowly left behind in the boats wake seems overlong and uninteresting.

    Unfair I suppose to be too critical at a debut effort, but for everyone looking forward to seeing this, be prepared to be underwhelmed.
  • As a long time Jim Jarmusch fan, I'm only finally getting to his older work. Permanent Vacation was a pleasant look at his roots and early style, but is seriously lacking in substance.

    The film plays like a character study. There isn't much of a story, and the movie is short enough that it's over before you realize it is. The voice over could have worked, but the script was weak and occasionally cliche, and no one in this movie was a professional actor.

    What this movie does have is an enthralling soundtrack and raw sound. The combination of sound and grainy footage gives the movie a powerful atmosphere that can be hard to find in recent Hollywood films. However, Jarmusch's later movies like Ghost Dog and Only Lovers Left Alive reproduce the urban jungle, with the added bonus of being better films overall. This is not a movie for the uninitiated, and it offers little that wasn't improved in Jarmusch's later work.