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SnoopyStyle6 January 2019
Hip New Yorker Willie (John Lurie) has an unwelcomed visit by his cousin Eva (Eszter Balint) from Budapest. She wins him over by stealing TV diner and smokes. Along with Willie's friend Eddie (Richard Edson), the trio goes on various adventurers over many years.

The settings are Spartan. It's black and white. It's Jim Jarmusch's second film. It's an arthouse film. He's not a favorite of mine although I see the artistry. He's trailblazing a new independent movement in cinema. It's simplified. It's self-made but professional. The plot meanders a lot and the story has a few great moments. It's not until the money when I got really interested and then the movie ends. I don't get it. Is there a sequel? What happens to the money? It just ends. Jarmusch's plots are always meandering and non-Hollywood. I appreciate his independent streak but his stories are harder to enjoy.
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Ironic and Weird Tale of Emptiness and Boredom
claudio_carvalho28 April 2013
The New World: The teenager Eva Molnar (Eszter Balint) arrives from Budapest, Hungary, and goes to the house of his cousin Willie, a.k.a. Bela Molnar (John Lurie) in a dangerous neighborhood in New York. Eva intends to travel to Cleveland to stay with her Aunt Lotte (Cecillia Stark), but the old woman is in the hospital and Eva has to stay with the idle Wille, who is absolutely indifferent to her. They spend their empty days smoking Chesterfield, watching television and playing solitaire and Eva befriends Willie's friend Eddie (Richard Edson). Then Willie and Eddie are connected to Eva and they miss her when she travels to Cleveland.

One Year Later: Willie and Eddie win a large amount in the poker game and they borrow a car and travel to Cleveland to visit Eva. They spend a couple of boring days in the house of Aunt Lotte.

Paradise: Willie and Eddie invite Eva to go on vacation in Florida. However they lose their money in the dog racing. Willie decides to bet their last money in the horse racing and they win money. Meanwhile Eva is wrongly taken by another woman and receives a large amount from a stranger. She leaves money for Willie and Eddie and goes to the airport expecting to travel to Europe, but there is only one flight to Budapest. Meanwhile Willie and Eddie seek her out in the airport. Will Willie find Eva?

"Stranger than Paradise" is an ironic and weird tale of emptiness and boredom by Jim Jarmusch, filmed in black and white and divided in three segments (acts). There are funny moments, like for example, when Willie has a phone conversation with his Aunt Lotte and tells that Eva will put his life on hold since the guy spends the days smoking, watching television, playing solitaire and gambling in the horse racing. Then he misses Eva, probably the only different thing that had happened in his boring and empty life. In the end, it is hilarious when Eddie asks to himself: What will Willie do in Budapest? "Stranger than Paradise" is not for every audience but those viewers that also enjoy cinema as art. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Estranhos no Paraíso" ("Stranger in the Paradise")
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gavin694216 January 2014
Willie is a pre-slacker-era slacker living in New York City. His cousin Eva from Hungary visits him for several days, and then goes to Cleveland to stay with their Aunt Lotte. One year later, Willie and his friend Eddie take a road trip to Cleveland to visit Eva and Aunt Lotte.

While this is not my favorite Jim Jarmusch film (and I do think he is an exceptionally skilled director), I have to recognize for what it is -- the birth of modern independent film. The success Jarmusch achieved here indirectly lead to Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith and countless others.

Some scenes, particularly those at the beach, even evoke Ingmar Bergman, something I find hard to believe was intentional. But the lifeless scenes among what should be a happy moment call out Bergman's name, and perhaps Swedish film in general.

Screamin' Jay Hawkins has a song featured quite prominently here, and I see it as a precursor to Jarmusch's association with Tom Waits. Although Hawkins and Waits may have never met (I have no idea), I do think a fondness or one inevitably leads to the other.
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Stranger than Paradise
jboothmillard23 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
From writer/director Jim Jarmusch (Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Broken Flowers), I had no clue what this film featuring the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book was about, and to be honest, that didn't change much when I watched it. Basically Willie (John Lurie) is a self confessed hipster and slacker living in New York City, and his Hungarian cousin Eva (Eszter Balint) has arrived unexpectedly for a surprise visit lasting for ten days, while Aunt Lotte (Cecillia Stark) is in hospital. For a while he makes it clear he is not happy with her being around, but over time he enjoys her company, one instance where he really likes her is after she steals groceries and makes a TV dinner for him. The ten days pass and Eva is ready to leave, but is obvious Willie is upset after she has gone, Eddie (Richard Edson) made sure to help her out before she left, but Willie really wants her back. It is after winning a large amount of money cheating in a game of poker that the two friends start a journey to Cleveland, but even when they do find her, and spend some time with her friend Billy (Danny Rosen) they find they are just as bored as when they were in New York. Willie and Eddie decide rather than go back home to travel to Florida, and obviously they take Eva with them, but after settling a bit they lose all the money they have betting on dog races, and they try to win it back in horse races. After a trip to the beach Eva is mistaken for a drug dealer and gets a large amount of money, which she leaves some of for Willie, along with a note that she is going to the airport, and she sees the only European place to go is Budapest, her original home country. She decides to wait until the next day, and Willie and Eddie return having won all the money back on the horse races, but they find Eva has gone, and after seeing the note Willie rushes to get on the plane she should be travelling. The final shot though sees Willie getting on the plane to Budapest and it taking off, Eddie watches it take off and leave, but Eva has in fact gone back to the hotel they were staying, to an empty room. I can't really say anything much about the stars as I know none of them, only that they do a good job to not express many expressions and emotions at all, the same can be said for director Jarmusch, who creates a rather quiet film with not much going on, it is honestly a little dull, but that actually adds to the odd atmosphere and overall unpredictable feel of this strangely fascinating road movie drama. Good!
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I am de vinner....I am always de vinner
blanche-24 March 2013
My circle of friends has been saying "I am de vinner..." since we first saw this film in the '80s.

"Stranger than Paradise" was Jarmusch's first film, based on a short film, and I've been a fan ever since.

John Lurie is Willie, who has been living in New York City and thinks he's really got it going on in his drab apartment and TV dinners. He is surprised -- and not very happy -- when his cousin Eva shows up from Hungary for a visit. He doesn't want anything to do with the Hungarian language or the old country.

Willie is pretty hostile in the beginning, but he and his friend Eddie (Richard Edson) take her along with them (though they continually try to ditch her) on their big road trip, which starts at Aunt Lotte's (Cecillia Stark) house in Cleveland. There they play cards with Aunt Lotte declaring herself "de vinner." Then it's on to Florida, and here's where the story develops a couple of neat twists.

This film was made for $90,000 and is considered incredibly successful as it earned something like 20+ times its budget. The photography is stark in black and white and the locations finally elicit an hysterical observation from Eva.

"Stranger than Paradise" has quirky comedy and a quirky outlook, typical of Jarmusch. There's an underlying feeling of quiet loneliness throughout as the three misfits look, but don't seem to know what they're looking for. The film is set in the '80s, both Willie and Eva don't dress like it, and seem to fit in well with Aunt Lotte's old-fashioned European decor.

Though Jarmusch's characters are often a little wacky, you can't help but like them or empathize with them. The story and characters of "Stranger Than Paradise" are oddly unforgettable as Eva looks at America and thinks, so what? And given what she sees, you can't blame her.
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"I put a spell on you..."
Quinoa19843 August 2005
Stranger Than Paradise, which put filmmaker Jim Jarmusch on 'the map' in the small but superlative crop of independent filmmakers of the eighties (he was the first, then came the Coen Brothers, then Spike Lee, and then culminating in the 90's with the 'new wave' of independent filmmakers). What he presents here is a unique little treatise on youth, on the subtle and disconnected qualities that go in life when you don't have much to do. In a way it's an existentialist film without many very serious questions to deal with story or even character-wise (except until maybe the last fifteen minutes in the "Paradise" segment). Like a French New-Wave film, to which Jarmusch was heavily influenced by (i.e. the gorgeous, grainy black and white photography by Tom DiCillo), he leaves more for the audience to ponder, as they go along on their journey.

One of the things that Stranger Than Paradise has going for it is a sort of realism that, like and not-like a Wes Anderson film for example, is off-beat. Only here it is more of an urban sort of landscape and interiors that Jarmusch gives us with, along with its three principles. John Lurie as Willie is very good at having attitude when he needs it, but in reality is rather low-key in his 'hip-ness'. His cousin from Hungary pays him a visit (Eszter Balint as Eva, maybe too low-key at times, though appropriately observant of foreign territory). There is also his faithful companion Eddie, played in a great supporting tone and style by Richard Edson. The first segment of the film deals with her in New York. The second one has Eddie and Willie go to Cleveland to pay Eva a visit. Then in the third segment they go down to Florida to have some fun, only to have anything but.

In other words, those looking for a film where a lot of things 'happen' may be disappointed, or just bored. I've seen the film twice now, and on the first viewing I was a little detached from what was going on on screen, which is just little things going on with the characters, like one would see in everyday life. But on the second viewing I somehow connected more with these characters, the youth that seem to drift needlessly along. The editing of the film is also the most simplistic, though highly effective, in adding to the disconnected quality of Jarmusch's direction- no cuts during dialog, just fading to black, fading up, fading to black, fading up (Jarmusch would continue this with Down by Law and Dead Man, though not as frequent or strategic).

In fact, the whole film is rather deliberate in its style, but as the song that plays several times in the film "I Put a Spell On You" from Screamin' Jay Hawkins plays, it does work to bring a viewer in...or not. Like many in the "art-film" world, almost all of Jarmusch's films are either liked or not, and I think that's appropriate for his stories, which often deal with low-key characters dealing with unusual but either realistic or metaphorical situations. One thing I can say for certain, much like the French new-wave films inspired by it, it's imitated, but not equaled in its form.
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Ingmar Bergman Meets Buster Keaton
dougdoepke13 March 2014
Viewers appear to either love the film or hate it. Like any good work of art, STP tries to get us to see the familiar in an unfamiliar way, such that our understanding of the every-day is deepened. So I'm tempted to say that anyone willing to look through Jarmusch's novel spectacles will be rewarded, while those insisting on a more conventional approach will turn away in disgust. But perhaps the results are not as simple as that. After all, who would want to sit through a double feature that extends the listlessness and minimalism to 3 hour duration. STP may have moments of real insight such as the dead-end diner, nevertheless as cinematic style, the limitations are obvious. (Andy Warhol's eight hours of fixed focus on a Manhattan skyscraper may be a profound idea, but as repeatable cinema the limitations are even more obvious.) Still and all, this one-of-a kind is salvaged by its droll humor. By any measure, it's an exquisite example of existential comedy. The zombified characters simply cannot communicate with one another and as a result are reduced to co-existing in darkly humorous fashion, carrying their mute fumblings from one seedy locale to another, (the ridiculous pork-pie hats are a brilliant comedic touch). And not even that most American of solutions, a big wad of money, helps; in fact the sudden windfall produces a final physical separation, both amusingly ironic and unexpectedly poignant. Apparently, Jarmusch intends this on-going isolation as a musing on the so-called human condition, since a number of scenes are filmed against featureless horizons. But whatever the over-all intention, this 'Buster Keaton meets Ingmar Bergman' oddity remains a classic of deadpan understatement. And though most of us are a lot more talkative than the three principals, I wonder--when you get right down to it which Jarmusch does--if we communicate any more effectively.
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Not Strange, White
tedg6 August 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

The connection between films and reality is slight. Films make their own reality which we then play against real life. Each film paints on a canvas in our minds that has already been covered by previous films.

Unless you have a white spot, a relatively unpainted space, you'll go crazy. This film is your white space. Its not minimalism in the traditional sense -- that involves abstraction. This is a deliberate emptiness that provides as close to non-cinema as one can get. Watching it raises the level of other films you may like, and not because it is bad. White space.
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Boring drivel
preppy-36 November 2009
Inexplicably popular indie film about a NYC guy who is paid a surprise visit by his Hungarian cousin. They talk endlessly, travel to Florida for no good reason, get involved with a robbery...There's really no point in summarizing what little plot there is. Basically nothing changes or happens that is remotely interesting. The film just sort of hangs there. I caught this in 1984 at an art house. The critics were falling all over themselves praising it. I was in college at that time and this (supposedly) was a big hit with college kids. At first I paid attention to the characters and dialogue...but it (slowly) dawned on me that this was about nothing with totally dull characters and bad acting. The 89 minutes dragged and I was bored silly by the end. I wasn't alone. When the lights came up in the theatre people were looking at each other with this puzzled look on their faces. Walking out I heard people say things like, "What was THAT all about" and "That was the stupidest movie I ever saw". Because of this tripe I refuse to see anything Jim Jarmusch did since then. I just see his name or hear it and I flash back to this utterly dull and pointless excuse for a movie. It might be worth catching just to figure out WHY critics loved this thing back in 1984. Avoid.
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Because you're mine
TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews18 June 2010
This is the third and final Jarmusch film that I recently got on sale(the other two being Night on Earth and Mystery Train; I have watched Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, as well). He has this approach that is far from being Hollywood and mainstream. This is the most radical in that respect, of the four. There are no "cuts"; every scene is one shot, and while the camera may move a little to follow the people, it will never go to a different take. The editing and cinematography are yet again subtle and do not draw attention to themselves. There is hardly any plot(and there isn't meant to be). The dialog is minimalist. It's about the credible and consistent characters and the environment, and it also deals with immigration and culture. Willie is a hustler in NY, trying to run away from his background; it gets on his nerves when his cousin(who comes to live with him, much to his dismay) and his aunt speak Hungarian. The acting is mixed. This has next to no music, and it isn't a manipulative production. It isn't for everyone; many will find it "boring", and if what I've described thus far sounds like it would be dull, then you may not be in the intended audience. There is no offensive material in this. I recommend this to any fan of Jim and anyone open to independent and artistic movies in general. 8/10
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Cool, relaxed and dull
The_Void12 July 2006
Director Jim Jarmusch made a name for himself by directing cool, relaxed films; and it has to be said that he's done it rather well on a few occasions. Down By Law was probably his first big success, but Stranger Than Paradise was his first feature film. The film features the relaxed atmosphere that Jarmusch is famous for creating, and it also looks the part with its silky black and white picture...but as a film, it's not all that good. The relaxed plot is far too relaxed to the point of boredom, and none of the three central performers manage to lift the film above the norm. Much of the film simply sees the characters sitting around talking, and their conversations aren't exactly fascinating. There is a sense of irony, especially regarding the ending; but other than that, the film doesn't show a lot of intelligence either. This film apparently started out as a thirty minute short; and that sounds about right, as it all feels very stretched and that's unfortunate, as it would have made a fairly decent short film. The plot simply follows a Hungarian man in New York who receives an unwelcome visit from his cousin. Jarmusch doesn't do a very good job of portraying his characters, and we don't get to learn much about them from their conversations. The only real positive element of this film as far as I can see is the cinematography, which really does look good. Overall, this is a rather dull and pretentious film that looks good. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Night on Earth, Dead Man and Down By Law before this.
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Just watch "Ruby in Paradise" instead.
=G=8 February 2004
In "Stranger in Paradise", Writer/Director Jim Jarmash paints a bleak portrait of a man, his buddy, and a girl by using a maximimzed minimalism. Like many arthouse films which use art as an excuse for the absence of things which cost money like COLOR, this Jarmish artie slogs tediously from scene to scene without anything interesting happening thereby making the point that nothing is happening and emphasizing the dull, sublunary, and unhappening life of the protagonists. Jamrsh does an excellent job with his lens in capturing the ordinariness of his characters and succeeds in showing the audience how very ordinary his characters are. If you like this film, you may want to check out a similar but better film and Ashley Judd's breakthrugh film, "Ruby in Paradise" (1993). (D+)
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Strong focus
Red_Identity19 December 2014
One can definitely see just how much influence this film had on independent cinema. The acting from the three leads is incredibly attuned and realistic, definitely in line with what Jarmusch is trying to do. The film, despite not being driven by plot at all and moving at a very slow pace (what many would consider a slow pace) actually remains pretty entertaining, and shockingly, easy to watch throughout. Maybe it's because the characters are so well established in such simple ways from the beginning that watching them play with dialogue remains intriguing even as the film goes on. It will definitely test many people's patience but personally I found it to be exquisitely done.
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An engaging indie film
gbill-7487723 February 2019
A young Hungarian woman comes to stay with her cousin in New York for ten days before heading off to Cleveland. He's an outsider and not the most charming guy in the world, but he puts her up, and she soon meets his friend. The story is told in a series of moments that trace their times together in New York, Cleveland, and Florida, a little like a linear set of memory snippets, but the plot is minimalistic, and a lot of those moments are simple things like watching TV or vacuuming. In that you can read cynical commentary about the banality of existence, maybe best captured in his line "you come to someplace new, and everything looks just the same." It's a low-budget indie film, and despite mildly unlikeable characters and little actually happening, it was surprisingly engaging.

There are brilliant moments where the quietness of director Jim Jarmusch's approach really works, such as when she's left for Cleveland and he sits in his apartment drinking with his buddy, his mind clearly on the little light she brought into his dingy life. I loved the old Hungarian aunt too. Other aspects are less successful, usually because the acting is sometimes amateurish, making me feel like I was watching a student project. Constant through it all is nice cinematography work, and a distinctive style. I didn't care for the ending too much, not because I expected all this to go somewhere in particular, but because it seemed like a forced attempt to do that. Still, a good film, reminiscent of French New Wave or Italian neorealism, and maybe the only reason I don't rate it a little higher is that those films transport me further than these 80's characters from the east coast do.
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A seemingly mundane film that finds beauty in simplicity
Movie_Muse_Reviews5 June 2017
"Stranger than Paradise" is so straightforward and simple that you could easily mistake Jim Jarmusch's approach for cockiness. A three-part film comprised of single-take scenes, the bones of the film are so bare that you have to wonder how a filmmaker can be so nonchalant as if expecting the audience will bother to meet him where he's at.

The film follows first generation American turned New York hipster Willie (John Lurie) who is tasked with hosting his cousin Eva (Eszter Balint) from Budapest before she moves out to Cleveland to live with his aunt, then a year later follows Willie and his best friend Eddie (Richard Edson) as they road trip to Cleveland to visit Eva and finally the three's spontaneous trip to Florida.

Jarmusch's story is essential a alternative distillation of the American dream. It features an unglamorous immigrant story, two guys who see success as gambling their way into good fortune and a Florida vacation that's ten times worse than whatever picture you currently hold in your mind for a Florida vacation. Jarmusch presents these in short scenes that end with fades to black, usually brief moments of character interaction in which at best we get a flavor of who these people are and how they feel about each other. The tone is somewhere been mundane and laid back, with the occasional moments of drama and levity feeling like major breakthroughs in storytelling.

As such, the audience has to be patient and do a little work to access the real fruit of Jarmusch's labor — yet not in the decoding sense. He puts everything right out there; we have to draw our own connections as to what the value of a particular vignette could be. Presumably, he wants our own experiences to inform the subtle drama and dynamics between characters.

So it takes a certain frame of mind to take something away from "Stranger than Paradise." Jarmusch puts it all out there, but not on a silver platter. He delivers this film with such poise and sure-handedness, the kind you might only expect from an established, confident auteur. He knows the story he wants to tell and how he wants to tell it, and he's not concerned with what anyone expects or wants. Naturally, it makes "Stranger than Paradise" far from a crowd-pleaser, yet for anyone interested in the nuance of filmmaking and visual storytelling, it's a really admirable, approach with a distinct vision.

~Steven C

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The Mundanities of Life
jzappa11 September 2009
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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RosanaBotafogo29 August 2021
Fantastic, footage shot in one shot, a simple and efficient script captivates and hypnotizes us, a perfect trio, all sequelae, but complete in juvenile irresponsibility, an appropriate and consequent outcome, which through the mismatch, contemplates the characters' anguish... Excellent production, ironic and disturbing that I have not enjoyed the only two works by Jim Jarmusch, "Broken Flowers" and "Forever Lovers"...
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Independent genius
Polaris_DiB7 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Throughout cinema history there have been hundreds of examples of how someone has taken an extremely limited budget and made a magnificent thing out of it. Jarmusch's second feature and his first real introduction to the world is one of the best examples of that in terms of both aesthetics and entertainment value. The movie itself is a series of single takes divided by black leader, and never deviates from that form even in places where continuity editing could have been implemented. Indeed, every single shot is a vignette complete with its own beginning, middle, and end, and profoundly understated in simple ways. The seemingly flat black and white cinematography meshes with the wide-angle depth and creates a dynamic frame even though it's typically crowded with objects and characters (even though there are few set-pieces or characters). It looks like point-and-shoot but is so much more crafty than that.

Jarmusch quite clearly wears his inspiration from Ozu on his sleeve and even references Tokyo Story in the dialog. But that said, Stranger than Paradise for me also mixed an acknowledgement of underground cinema such as Andy Warhol's Vinyl for simplicity's sake. In the same way that Vinyl is A Clockwork Orange in two crowded, dimensionless long takes, Stranger than Paradise is its own collection of self-evident virtuosity without the need for glamorous standards, making stars simply because it throws them up on screen, not because they are technically attractive people. In fact, the two main characters Eddie and Willie are kinda goofy looking, and all three main characters could be considered unattractive in their passivity and malaise. On the other hand, this movie, as noted often, is quite hip and certainly holds some Indie credentials (not that this is a bad thing, as it is definitely sincere).

But it's just so smart in its approach. With limited celluloid and limited space, Jarmusch created an amazingly dynamic world. Without continuity editing, he created a very rhythmic and involved series of shots. Without relying on too much movement or action, he created characters of great depth and familiarity. And with low-grade black and white cinematography, he created a world to fit it all into.

There are required viewing movies for classics and required viewing for film history. There are thousands upon thousands of movies that film buffs and film makers should watch or at least keep in mind about getting around to seeing. Stranger than Paradise is one of those I'd eagerly recommend to anyone who likes the thought of making movies but gets overwhelmed by the prospect of getting involved in what seems like such a complicated process. It just goes to prove that something amazing can be made out of something simple with a little forethought and a lot of care.

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Fond of it.
dfranzen7018 September 2014
The other night I caught Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise (1984), a low-key story about a young woman who comes to the United States from Hungary, her boho cousin, and her cousin's friend. This is an undemanding, entertaining little film that relies most heavily on its actors' fine performances.

Willie (jazz musician John Lurie) is a hipster, at least as much of one as 1984 had to offer. He lives in a tiny, tiny apartment in New York, and he's expecting his cousin Eva (Eszter Balint, recently seen in a story arc on Louie) to arrive from Hungary and spend the night before heading to Ohio to live with their aunt. But poor Aunt Dottie (Cecillia Stark) will be in the hospital for the next fortnight, so Eva necessarily crashes with Willie. Willie's miffed that his blossoming (untrue) social life will take a hit with Eva around, and he treats his cousin with some scorn, like an unwanted puppy. Soon, Willie's friend Eddie (Richard Edson) shows up, and he's a kinder, gentler (if submissive) version of Willie.

In the second act, Eva has left for Ohio, but after a year the guys miss her and, after winning some money in a fixed poker game, head out to visit. But, bored (again) with Ohio, they head to Florida with Eva for some deserved rest and relaxation.

One of the most intriguing aspects of this superficially uncomplex film is the way the trio's interrelationships develop. Willie becomes more tolerant of Eva, to the point where he's willing to drive from New York to Ohio to visit. And as time progresses, Willie and Eddie are more on even ground with each other (Eddie becomes more assertive).

This isn't a movie about nothing, but it's a close approximation. Lurie and Balint mesh well together. Balint's Eva is neither a shrinking violet (being new to the country and all) nor a pugnacious harridan. She's smarter than she looks - and certainly wiser than Willie and Eddie. But the other two aren't one dimensional, either, as Jarmusch's efficient script allows each to grow and to communicate so much by saying so little.

Stranger Than Paradise is a beautiful little movie, filmed in black and white to better illustrate the inevitable hopelessness the characters endure. It's one of those cases in which less is truly more, as Jarmusch's immersive atmosphere lightly complements the strong acting from the three leads.
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an acquired taste, to say the least
mjneu595 January 2011
This cool to distraction cult favorite introduced art house audiences to the minimalism of writer director Jim Jarmusch, who in his breakthrough feature walks a fine line between tedium and hilarity. Mix the two together and the result is a unique if lukewarm comedy exploring American culture at its lowest common denominator, resembling a lonely little travelogue of cheap motel rooms and TV dinners. The trio of unlikely protagonists: a listless New York City non-entity (Lounge Lizards saxophonist John Lurie), his dimwitted but amiable friend, and a demure Hungarian cousin, detour from the Big Apple to Cleveland to Florida, but while the landscapes never change the film is not as pointless as it appears. The rigid construction, with each self-contained scene blacking out before the next, adds up (curiously) to something more than the sum of its loosely fitted parts, and once adjusted to the halting pace viewers will discover an offbeat alternative to conventional storytelling techniques.
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Art Film Classic - Stranger Than Paradise
arthur_tafero26 May 2019
Jim Jarmusch is one of my favorite directors. He doesnt use special effects. He doesnt do car chases. There's not a lot of broken glass from his massive action scenes (since he seldom ever has an action scene). He is about a simple story and a look at characterizations; the perfect setting for an art house film. He will never be popular with the mainstream of America, and that is by design. His films are not meant for mainstream America, even though they certainly capture the working (and mostly non-working) class of America pretty well. This tale of Brooklyn to Cleveland to Florida is a classic because there is not one working stiff in New York City who doesnt want to get away to Florida in the middle of another miserable New York City winter. I know that from experience. Jarmusch captures the mundane existence of people who live on the rim of the working class; the people who can never make ends meet. Sit back and enjoy the trip.
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Zero Cuts
caspian19787 October 2004
Stranger than Paradise is a excellent example of a good independent movie. Shot on black & white negative 16mm film, the entire film doesn't have a single cut from one shot to another. Each scene begins and ends with a fade or jump to black. It is almost like watching a series of snap shots as you watch this unlikely story or three unlikely characters. The setting of New York City, Cleveland and Florida only add to the originality of the story with a simple, yet honest plot. Although this is not your typical drama or comedy, the movie ends up being funny and at sometimes a true drama. An interesting story that keeps you watching until the very end. A good independent film.
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Some interesting technique, some humor, and much testing of one's patience
bandw15 March 2010
Willie is a Hungarian immigrant having lived in New York City for ten years. As we first meet him he seems content to live his small little life by getting up late, making a few dollars on the horses, and cheating at poker with his friend Eddie. Then this dream existence is disrupted when his cousin Eva arrives from Hungary to stay with him until she can move on to stay with her aunt Lottie in Cleveland, after Lotte has recovered from surgery. The first part of the movie deals with how Willie and Eddie integrate Eva into their spectacularly uneventful lives.

Eva moves on to Cleveland and we resume the story a year later when Willie and Eddie get the great idea of driving to Cleveland, in the dead of winter no less. The only scenes with much energy in them are provided by Aunt Lotte, who speaks mostly in Hungarian and has more life in her than any of the others, and believe me that is not saying much. Well, the trio sees that being in Cleveland is going nowhere so they continue their search for paradise in Florida, where they basically continue the lives they have had everywhere else, except now they are operating out of a run-down motel instead of a run-down apartment or a run-down house. If the message is that ordinary people tend to establish the same lives for themselves no matter where they are, then I wish I had not had to endure this film to get that point.

The grainy black and white, static photography is appropriate--it simply accentuates the dreariness of the whole affair.

I suppose the fact I stuck it out to the end is one of the most positive things I can say about this thing. The technique of telling the story through a sequence of vignettes separated by fades to black is of interest, but I never find it a good sign when the techniques are more interesting that the story.

The movie is not without its small moments of humor. Anyone who has had a vacation go bad can identify with the scene where Willie, Eddie, and Eva decide to take a trip to see Lake Erie. The three stand there on an observation deck in a cold wind looking onto a frozen barrenness. A metaphor for their lives?

The oddest thing is that throughout a movie that concentrates on minimalist realism, there is a scene toward the end that is absurdly unbelievable. And the meaning of the final scene escaped me.

I guess I am one of the philistines who did not get much out of this.
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Wierdly Wonderful
crossbow010626 June 2010
I first saw this film in the theater in 1984, so this is the first time I've seen it since then. I remember at the time telling people what an amazing film it was, deliberately non-commercial and, while the plot is not really about much, it has a rhythm and clarity that was so unlike films at the time. Shot in black and white, the film consists of a number of "snapshot scenes", there is a slight pause between scenes in which the screen goes black, a very effective method of telling this deceptively simple story. Basically, its the story of Eva (Eszter Balint), who has to stop over on her way to Cleveland to live with her Aunt Lotte, emigrating from Hungary. She has to stay at her cousin Willie's apartment in New York for ten days. Willie is played with remarkable restraint by John Lurie, who at the time was the epitome of cool since he fronted the jazz band The Loungs Lizards. Willie and his friend Eddie (Richard Edson, also very good) decide to drive to Cleveland a year after Eva visited to see Eva and Aunt Lotte. What follows is a few bizarre coincidences, after Eva, Willie and Eddie decide to drive to Florida. That the story is told so soberly and with remarkable continuity made people at the time and since hail writer/director Jarmusch as an important voice in cinema, a distinction he still holds. A few observations about the film: The film to me seems like it could be influenced by Japanese master Ozu. The simple layout of the film, the camera angles etc are somewhat of an homage to the great filmmaker. Also, the soundtrack, which was composed by Lurie, is extremely effective in sustaining the mood of the film. This film is not for everyone, it is a stark, simple but utterly compelling independent minded film. This film is not for casual film fans. Actually, I think this film should be part of the curriculum of any film class. If you can come close to equaling Jarmusch's sense of both the absurd and reality, you could turn out to be as much of an auteur as he is considered.
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Absorbing Film By Jarmusch
jhclues16 November 2000
An excellent example of why independent films are so invaluable, `Stranger Than Paradise,' written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, is a bare-bones production that never would have found the light of day in the mainstream. Essentially a character study, the story is a glimpse into the lives of three people: Willie (John Lurie); his cousin, Eva (Eszter Balint), recently arrived in New York from Hungary; and Willie's friend, Eddie (Richard Edson). After a couple of weeks in the Big Apple with Willie, Eva moves to Cleveland to live with their Aunt; a year later, Willie and Eddie are off to visit her. One thing leads to another, and the trio wind up in Florida (the designated paradise of the title). Watching this film is like spending time with some people you know; the characters are real people, so much so that watching them becomes almost voyeuristic, the camera somehow intrusive, exposing as it does the private lives of these individuals. It succinctly captures their lack of ambition, the ambiguity with which they approach life, and the fact that they seemingly have no prospects for the future beyond whatever a lucky day at the track affords them. The action, such as it is, is no more than what you would find in the average day of someone's life. The dialogue is what drives the film, though frankly, nothing they have to say is very interesting. And yet, this is an absolutely engrossing film; sometimes amusing, at times hilarious, but mesmerizing throughout. The performances are entirely credible, and again, you never have the sense that these are actors, but rather real people who happen to have had some moments from their lives filmed and presented to the audience for perusal. Jarmusch has an innate sense of capturing the essence of the everyday and transforming the most simplistic and mundane events into refreshingly documented, worthwhile viewing. It's an inspired piece of film making, helped to some extent by the stark black&white photography that adds to the realism of the overall proceedings. The use of brief blackouts during transitions works effectively, as well as providing the film with a unique signature. Original music is by Lurie, but the highlight is the use of the song `I Put A Spell On You,' by Screamin' Jay Hawkins, used recurringly throughout the movie, and which exemplifies that special touch Jarmusch brings to his projects. And there's a superb bit of irony at the end that really makes this gem sparkle. The supporting cast includes Cecillia Stark (Aunt Lotte), Danny Rosen (Billy), Tom DiCillo (Airline Agent), Richard Boes (Factory Worker) and Rockets Redglare, Harvey Perr and Brian J. Burchill (as the Poker players). `Stranger Than Paradise' may not be to everyone's liking, but to those seeking an alternative to the typical Hollywood big-budget fare available, it just may fit the bill and provide a satisfying, entertaining experience. I rate this one 8/10.
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