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Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

R | | Comedy, Drama | October 1984 (UK)
A New Yorker's life is thrown into a tailspin when his younger cousin surprise visits him, starting a strange, unpredictable adventure.

Director:

Jim Jarmusch

Writer:

Jim Jarmusch

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8 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
John Lurie ... Willie
Eszter Balint ... Eva
Richard Edson ... Eddie
Cecillia Stark Cecillia Stark ... Aunt Lotte
Danny Rosen Danny Rosen ... Billy
Rammellzee Rammellzee ... Man with Money
Tom DiCillo ... Airline Agent
Richard Boes Richard Boes ... Factory Worker
Rockets Redglare Rockets Redglare ... Poker Player
Harvey Perr Harvey Perr ... Poker Player
Brian J. Burchill Brian J. Burchill ... Poker Player
Sara Driver ... Girl with Hat
Paul Sloane Paul Sloane ... Motel Owner
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Storyline

A self-styled New York hipster is paid a surprise visit by his younger cousin from Budapest. From initial hostility and indifference a small degree of affection grows between the two. Along with a friend, they eventually end up visiting their aunt in the wastelands of Cleveland and then proceed to Florida where they lose all their money gambling before unwittingly gaining a fortune. Written by J.Arnold Free <arnold@mayahtt.ca> and Brian McInnis

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA | West Germany

Language:

English | Hungarian | Italian

Release Date:

October 1984 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Extraños en el paraíso See more »

Filming Locations:

USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$90,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$2,436,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Started out as a 30-minute short subject film (shot in 1982) and was later expanded into a 3-part feature. The first section, "The New World," takes place in New York, the second, "One Year Later," in Cleveland, and the last, "Paradise," in Florida. See more »

Goofs

During the first shot of the motel room in Florida, a boom mic can be seen in the reflection on a window between the curtains. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Willie: Yeah.
Aunt Lotte: [speaks indistinctly in Hungarian]
Willie: Oh, hello, Aunt Lotte.
Aunt Lotte: [replies indistinctly in Hungarian throughout conversation]
Willie: Don't speak to me in Hungarian, please. No, I haven't heard from him, not for ten years. Yeah, I got your letter. Speak English, please! Yeah, my little cousin Eva. Yeah, I know, she's come - coming here and she's gonna stay overnight, when's she coming? Today? Straight from Budapest today? Ah, no. No, I never agreed to that. I can't possibly babysit for her for...
[...]
See more »

Connections

References Late Spring (1949) See more »

Soundtracks

I Put a Spell on You
Written by Screamin' Jay Hawkins (as Jay Hawkins)
Used by permission of CBS Unart Catalog, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.
Performed by Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Courtesy of CBS Records
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The Mundanities of Life
11 September 2009 | by jzappaSee all my reviews

Life is strikingly uneventful for Willie, played by renaissance man John Lurie, who refers to himself as a hipster and lives in New York City, and his interactions with his Hungarian cousin Eva, played by avant-garde actress-musician Eszter Balint, and his best friend Eddie, played by yet another actor-musician Richard Edson, who dresses exactly like Willie. Indeed, both males are swarthy with hook noses and fedoras. They have such little interest in or knowledge of anything that their eventual vacation is no different from home.

The quirky way to three-act story format is a succession of single-shot scenes punctuated by black leader, and the clear-cut partition of the story into three straightforward, facetiously named episodes. Yet there are other ceremonial characteristics of substance: Tom DiCillo's black-and-white camera work, which provides Jarmusch's acute impression for the American panorama; and the arresting appliance of music, which favorably apposes Screamin' Jay Hawkins's I Put a Spell on You with the folksy tinges of John Lurie's score for string quartet. This is definitely a road movie, but one with a distinction: Different from most instances of the then still immensely fashionable genre, Stranger Than Paradise appeared simultaneously comprehensively American and strangely European.

The oddly enlightening aggregate of involvement and reserve may be found in the film's lovingly absurd view of Willie's chic affectations, its quaint posture toward some of the inanities of American culture and in the way it harmonizes a decidedly American genre and decidedly American plot---if a narrative as gravely sparse and as concentrated on dead moments may be dubbed a plot---with all form of un-Hollywood expression. The look, rhythm, cast and mainly dismal feel bring to mind not The Blues Brothers, or even the rather subdued Last Detail, but the beginnings of the degree of minimalism to which Jarmusch would take his later work.

However he also loves various attributes of popular culture. See how Willie and Eva watch Forbidden Planet on TV or go with Eddie and Eva's discouraged fancier to see a bone-crunching Hong Kong martial-arts flick at a Cleveland grindhouse, and lets them neighbor more virtuous aspects of his films, in such a way that there is no discrepancy between high and low. And it's for that scarce but wholly judicious mindset that Jarmusch is to be particularly noted. It's doable to distinguish his connection with a gamut of later American indie directors, specifically in his desert drollery, his passionately entertained captivation with slackers of sundry kinds, his concern with sequential framework, his affinity for severely subdued stories, and his clever, antiquated references to popular culture. All these, at a time scarce in American cinema, are now pretty ubiquitous. But the rhyme, the unabashed regard for cinema as a quality, production, expression, a realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance, even the mundanities of life and the most everyday scenery possible, that can confront crucial, important matters is far more difficult to come across.

Considering, in the end, no matter how amusing, stylized, minute or insignificant his films may strike one at first, they are always about something. For all his cinephilia, they're inspired not, like Tarantino and Rodriguez, by other movies, but by life: by real people, encountering real feelings. And while this black-and-white deadpan pop culture satire may be a comedy, an dissection of cinematic storytelling, and a thoroughly cynical yarn, it's also a film about America and the people who live there. It's about those people's connections to each other, and their connections to the rooms they populate, the city streets, the suburbs, diners and highways. And it's made by someone who knows there may be reality in abstraction, who finds a visceral alliteration separating a snow-coated Lake Erie and a barren Florida beach, and who fashions an implausibly true character like Aunt Lotte, always jabbering to her tender company in Hungarian, whether they're listening or not.


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