THERE is something alarmingly mainstream about the opening lines of Jim Jarmusch's message in the Arts Centre's August programme. ''I am very happy that my films are being shown in Hongkong, a city which along with Paris, Hollywood and Bombay, is one of the world's capitals of cinema,'' the 40-year-old director wrote. ''Very happy'' indeed. Pah! This from a man who has made an art form of championing the rebellious, the obsessive . . . the outsider for whom happiness springs from disappointment and dysfunction. Fortunately, his words soon ring a little more true. ''To be honoured by a 'retrospective' of my work is, to be honest, a little disturbing to me. My first reaction was 'shouldn't they wait until I've made more films, or until I'm dead or something?' . . . ''All I can say is that these films are about, if anything, the smaller, not so dramatic but often comic events in daily life that all of us are familiar with. Maybe the real beauty of life is only in the details.'' He is writing about next month's Arts Centre programme ''Rebellious American Director: Jim Jarmusch''. A blend of poet, rock 'n' roll fan and lover of French cinema, New York-based Jarmusch produces films which deal with the darker corners of life but which still stroll along with an off-beat humour. His characters share a pessimistic view of relationships and a delight in the pleasures of coffee and cigarettes, taxi rides and rock 'n' roll songs. Sadly, the programme does not contain Jarmusch's most recent work, Coffee and Cigarettes - Somewhere in California, which won the Best Short Film award at Cannes this year. It does, however, contain other gems, Stranger Than Paradise (Camera D'Or in Cannes and Best Picture from the National Society of Film Critics in the US in 1985) and Mystery Train (Highest Artistic Achievement, Cannes 1989). The latter, along with 1991's Night on Earth, are among Jarmusch's best-known works. This is an excellent opportunity to catch his debut, Permanent Vacation, which earned him a cult following in Europe, and the first two instalments of Coffee and Cigarettes. Rebellious American Director: Jim Jarmusch. Permanent Vacation (1980), August 6 and 8. Stranger than Paradise (1984) and Coffee and Cigarettes I (1986), August 7 and 21. Down By Law (1986) and Coffee and Cigarettes II (1989), August 8 and 28. Mystery Train (1989), August 9; Night on Earth (1991), August 13. All tickets $40. Check with Arts Centre for screening times. (All films in English with Chinese subtitles).