A bleak but mordantly funny portrait of three aimless characters who discover that "paradise" isn't such an easy place to find. Displaying a hip formalism, Jim Jarmusch's second feature (his first, 1980's PERMANENT VACATION, received scant exposure) is divided into three distinct sections;
individual sequences within each section are presented in one sustained take, and are separated by blackouts. The first finds Willie (John Lurie, of Lounge Lizard renown), a Hungarian emigre and self-styled hipster, living in a stark, dreary section of New York City. Willie's day-to-day existence
is interrupted when his relatives ask him to house his young female cousin, Eva (Eszter Balint), upon her arrival from the old country. Willie dutifully, but reluctantly, obliges. Eva, however, is anything but a helpless foreigner and promptly goes about her own business. Still, when she departs
10 days later, a strange affection has developed between them.
In the second section, Willie and his buddy Eddie (Richard Edson) decide to head for Cleveland in the dead of winter to visit Eva, who now lives there with her irritable Aunt Lotte (Cecilia Stark). Once again, the characters do little of import together, spending their time staring at TV and
visiting Lake Erie. In the third and final section, the trio abandons the frozen north for Florida, where they check into an empty seaside motel and the boys squander most of their money at the dog races. Then Eva suddenly comes into a huge stash of loot.
Although STRANGER THAN PARADISE's premise is inarguably slight, Jarmusch compensates for it with the sheer stylishness of the film. Fortunately, he also transcends the obvious theme of alienation, fashioning instead an ironic comedy about communication and the lack thereof. The film received the
Camera d'Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival and was cited as best picture of the year by the National Society of Film Critics. Jarmusch went on direct such films as MYSTERY TRAIN, NIGHT ON EARTH and DEAD MAN.
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- Released: 1984
- Rating: R
- Review: A bleak but mordantly funny portrait of three aimless characters who discover that "paradise" isn't such an easy place to find. Displaying a hip formalism, Jim Jarmusch's second feature (his first, 1980's PERMANENT VACATION, received scant exposure) is div… (more)