It’s hardly surprising that in recent statements to the media, Jim Jarmusch wanted to extol the virtues of Twin Peaks 3 as the magnum opus of 21st century (something that, quote unquote, nobody’s willing to argue with about), because Centerville, a population of 738 souls which faces off against the zombie apocalypse in The Dead Don’t Die, can be seen as an imitation of that town where the body of Laura Palmer was discovered. The place, of course, is familiar to us. There’s the diner with excellent coffee, the filthy motel, the police station, and even a funeral home. Beyond these typical vignettes of the deep US, there floats the atmospheric guitars of Jarmusch’s own band (SQÜRL), but the famous chords of Angelo Badalamenti wouldn’t have been out of tune either. The locals, each with their own peculiar traits, move at that half-sleepy pace, with that morose diction, and catatonic humor, personified here by the great Bill Murray, a notorious element in Jarmusch’s cinema, but also ever-present in everything Twin Peaks.
Nocturnal filmmakers, 80’s postmodern ghosts, it looks like Lynch and Jarmusch have always walked hand-in-hand, or at least side-by-side. They have similar musical tastes, a passion for old rock, they revere the same pop culture, and they may even share the same hairdresser, or grower. Lynch is now 73 years old, while Jarmusch tags along behind him slightly at 66, and it’s a surprise to see the elegance and vigor with which his white rockabilly hairstyles still rise majestically towards the sky, as if they were a metaphor for his incombustible.
But here is where the similarities between the two might end. The director of Blue Velvet (1986) is crazier, more genius, and much more terrifying, while Down By Law (1986) creator, hidden behind a façade of cool distance, has a ‘shoot from the hip’ poet’s heart as we witnessed in Paterson (2016), played by Adam Driver, one of the many usual suspects who are always invited to his pleasant meetings of friends. You see, Jarmusch, like Lynch, has his own select troupe of recurring thespians. Perhaps the strangest thing of all is that Tilda Swinton, probably the most Lynchian actress out there, has never worked with David and yet she is a staple in Jim’s diet. And here she carries the motherload of the movie’s eccentricity. She’s come from Scotland to take over the funeral home, but actually seems from another planet. Fortunately, her talent with the katana will come in real handy when it comes to halting the threat of the undead.
Twin Peaks 3 is a magical, totalizing, absolute work. And The Dead Don’t Die rather the opposite: A discreet film, but consistent with the universe of the director of Dead Man, who, with its political weight and message, becomes much more than a memorable zombie-slayer pastime. Beneath its apparent light heartedness, it hides the heart wrenching melancholy of one who knows with certainty who knows in all certainty that the end truly is nigh, both for this world and his own.