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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 14.81%
Average: 7.41%
Pretty Bad: 3.7%
Total Crap: 3.7%

2 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Stranger Than Paradise
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by The Ultimate Dancing Machine

"One of the best of the Eighties"
5 stars

Artistically if not economically, the '80s were awfully dismal times for Hollywood, which, after the restless experimentation of the previous decade, reverted to assembly-line moviemaking under the guidance of the Eisners and the Ovitzes and the Spielbergs. It's not surprising that one of the decade's true highlights is this beautifully loping piece of black-and-white minimalism.

Centering on the random escapades of a knockabout trio--Willie (John Lurie), his Hungarian cousin (Eszter Balint), and Willie's pal Eddie (Richard Edson)--STRANGER THAN PARADISE stands out from the plot-driven Hollywood product simply by daring to omit plot. The action, if you can call it that, scrolls from New York to Ohio to Florida (the film was entirely shot on location), but, perversely, nothing really happens. The movie plays out in a minor key--this is its strength. The film's laconic humor depends on the apparent pointlessness; each scene ends with a abrupt blackout, which only underscores, rather effectively, the apparent emptiness of the material. The film may or may not be making a broad comment on culture clash; it's hard to say. Just imagine a feature film composed of "deleted scenes" and you have a sense of the movie's aimless texture.

For this early effort, Jarmusch won the Camera d'Or (Best First Film) at Cannes. There is indeed something distinctly European about his style--introverted, laid-back, deriving more from the Theatre of the Absurd than from American sources. Or perhaps not: STRANGER reminds me of nothing more than the drifting feel of life in the Midwest (Jarmusch is from Ohio). It's difficult to depict banality on film; directors who try usually end by condescending to their subjects--think of Fargo, impressive though it is in many areas. Jarmusch does not. This alone makes STRANGER a major achievement.

Though clearly filmed on the cheap, the movie displays Jarmusch's sure hand at every turn--only one scene, a mistaken-identity bit toward the end, is clumsily staged.

A real charmer, it is--a minor masterpiece, and a rare bright spot from a generally undistinguished period.

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originally posted: 12/21/02 16:36:53
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/19/10 Crichton Lousy writing, acting and directing. A crappy student film. 1 stars
12/13/05 Rita Ehrhardt Not easily accessible at first viewing, grows as you see it again, becomes unforgettable. 5 stars
8/10/05 ramiro brilliant!!! How all 'real cinema' should be 5 stars
7/31/05 yuko facinating 5 stars
8/12/04 Chris Simple, yet leaves you more more content than most Hollywood rubbish of this time period 4 stars
4/05/04 Dickie Wallis This film convinced me my girlfriend and I were through; she walked out on it, I stayed. 5 stars
5/29/03 brian great - the film is as unbearably slow as the lives of the main characters 5 stars
5/12/03 anna humor and dragic shake hands 5 stars
4/24/03 Ralph R. Clemente Interesting, but I didn't like it 2 stars
9/23/01 mleonard my favorite jarmusch 5 stars
8/22/01 Allen Steuart The screenplay is lean, and Jarmush makes some rookie errors. The acting redeems the film. 3 stars
7/03/01 The Stuff Like All his stuff. Fucking great with no clear point. But interesting and great. 4 stars
6/19/01 Steve Morton Very funny, but I must admit that I had just taken a nap. 4 stars
5/31/01 Walter Provo Still Jarmusch's best 4 stars
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  02-Apr-1984 (R)



Directed by
  Jim Jarmusch

Written by
  Jim Jarmusch

  John Lurie
  Eszter Balint
  Richard Edson
  Cecillia Stark
  Danny Rosen
  Tom DiCillo

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