Permanent Vacation (1980)

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Released 31-Aug-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 71:56
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jim Jarmusch
Madman Entertainment
Starring Jim Jarmusch
Richard Boes
Ruth Bolton
Sara Driver
Marķa Duval
Frankie Faison
Jane Fire
Suzanne Fletcher
Leila Gastil
Chris Hameon
John Lurie
Eric Mitchell
Chris Parker
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Jim Jarmusch
John Lurie

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

"If you really want to make a film, don't talk about it. Do it."
Director Nicholas Ray's encouraging words to Jim Jarmusch when he was in the graduate film program at NYU.

Jim Jarmusch's first feature film Permanent Vacation (1980) features all the hallmarks which the director would be renowned for later in his directorial and writing career. The film is the culmination of Jarmusch dropping out of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and using his tuition scholarship funds to finance a feature film which he wrote, produced and would direct featuring friends with no acting experience in lead roles. While at the prominent department of film studies at NYU Jarmusch met auteur Nicholas Ray (Jarmusch later became his teaching assistant), Wim Wenders and Tom DiCillio and honed his production skills as a production assistant and observer on Lightning Over Water (1980), Wenders' tribute to Ray. Combined with Jarmusch's extensive knowledge and enthusiasm for film history which was developed at the Cinematheque Francaise in Paris and his brief stint as a musician in a post-punk new wave band called Del-Bzyanteens, Permanent Vacation exists somewhere between American and European sensibilities and is further incidental of the Jarmusch protagonist who is a foreigner in their own environment.

"It's a film I made based on the main actor, or partly on his life - this friend of mine, Chris Parker. We just abstracted - we took a lot of things that happened to me and happened to accumulate the scenes and made a story out of them. It's a very loose narrative about a kid who just sort of wanders around. He doesn't go to school. He's sixteen. He doesn't live at home. He doesn't have a job. He just drifts around the city and encounters other sort of marginal people." (Jim Jarmusch in The Underground Film Bulletin Number: 4 September 1985 pp 21-22)

Knowing the background of Jarmusch one can't help but see Permanent Vacation as displaying Jarmusch's sense of isolation in the wide land of America. Jarmusch grew up in the industrialised city of Akron in Ohio and found an escape through avant-garde poetry, American literature, Japanese Horror films, James Bond and the films of actor Robert Mitchum. Subsequently Permanent Vacation is centred on Allie (Chris Parker), an insomniac sixteen year-old who dreams while awake. Allie is a character who drifts through life, but despite his youth he has some avid passions - from jazz music to cinema and literature. Through Jarmusch's signature stationary camera we experience moments with Allie; reading a passage out of a book aloud to his girlfriend, listening to a saxophone player in the midst of the night on a street corner, visiting his mother in a psychiatric institution, returning to his childhood home which lies in ruins and stealing a car in broad daylight. For Jarmusch life has no plot and neither should fiction and through Allie we see a character who needs to escape his bleak and grim environment to find some sense of reality.

This is an interesting art film which is best suited to fans of Jarmusch. Permanent Vacation is best described as a series of moments with a character who lives within us all; Allie is the dreamer within us all who refuses to be confined to the superficiality of the mainstream and wants to be passionate about everything and everyone who surrounds them. Allie does make that journey in the hope of a better existence and like all of Jarmusch's later protagonists he will make his inner consciousness an external reality, enabling oneself to find truth and hope.

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Transfer Quality


Permanent Vacation was shot on 16mm film and the 1.33:1 transfer is unfortunately riddled with defects. Objects on the film and heavy grain are existent throughout the feature and the colour is overly bright. The picture quality is relatively average in regards to sharpness but in respects to the low budget, independent picture which is over twenty years old, the transfer is adequate. It is also unfortunate that aliasing and comet trails occur in some scenes due to being filmed with analogue equipment. The transfer has been encoded at an average high bit rate of 7.69Mbps. There are no subtitles available.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


The soundtrack is a major accompaniment to the visuals. It was originally recorded in mono and reproduced on this DVD as an English Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono soundtrack. Many scenes are still and composer John Lurie and Jarmusch, who is also credited as helping with the music, create a tense atmosphere with sounds of war and repetitive music built on the sounds and rhythms of church bells which further demonstrates the character's mundane existence. Lurie also makes an improvisational cameo in the film as a saxophone player on a darkened street corner.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio

Less is more on a Jarmusch DVD and the still menu is accompanied by Lurie's saxophone soundtrack. Both the menu and the cover art are well themed to the concerns of the feature film. There are 12 chapter selections.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

Germany (R2): This title is only available as part of the "Jim Jarmusch Collection" consisting of 9 DVDs packed in slimcases in a cardboard slipcase. Besides "Permanent Vacation", the collection includes: "Stranger Than Paradise", "Down By Law", "Mystery Train", "Night on Earth", "Dead Man", "Year of the Horse", "Ghost Dog", and "Coffee and Cigarettes"


This is an interesting art film which is best suited to fans of Jarmusch. The picture and sound quality are relatively average and unfortunately the disc is bare-bones.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Vanessa Appassamy (Biography)
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-1910, using DVI output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE 700. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationYamaha DSP-A595a - 5.1 DTS
Speakers(Front) DB Dynamics Polaris AC688F loudspeakers,(Centre) DB Dynamics Polaris Mk3 Model CC030,(Rear) Polaris Mk3 Model SSD425,(Subwoofer) Jensen JPS12

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