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Stranger Than Paradise Reviews

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cosmo313
cosmo313

Super Reviewer

June 15, 2006
Considering that I have ADHD, it's a wonder that I'm able to sit through films that are slow paced and sometimes devoid of plot. I can't make it through every film like this, but if there's things going on I like in a film like this, then yeah, I can get through it. This applies to this one here.

In a way, I can sort of relate to the characters: they are bored, rootless, and don't really do much of anytihing, yet they are interesting people to watch, even if we don't really know much about them. The music, clothes, sets, and sparse conversations they have contribute to this. I found my self really hypnotized by this film.

The performances are terrific, and if they weren't, then this film really would be a failure. Everything hinges on the understated nuanced acting the three leads (two of them being non actor musicians). The carmera work is also nice. I got so caught up in just looking at stuff that I almost forgot that virtually all of the film is made up of long takes.

This is a nice little curiousity. I need to see more of Jarmusch's work before I can really comment on it, but, based on the others of his I've seen, this is not too far removed from his later stuff.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

November 16, 2011
Stranger than Paradise is a great example of Jim Jarmusch's sly deadpan humour that comes across so effortlessly hip and American cool. Bare in mind that this is only his second film, the direction is impressive, not many young film makers can master the art of black and white as well as he did. John Lurie should act more, although he's not wasted as a musician either, typically, the soundtrack is awesome too.
Graham J

Super Reviewer

October 27, 2011
WIth minimal plot and cast, Jim Jarmusch creates a masterpiece on his first time out.
ebs90
ebs90

Super Reviewer

August 18, 2009
Stranger than Paradise can come off as shallow because it doesn't really say anything. There isn't enough dialogue that conducts to psychological profiles of the characters. There isn't a particularly great challenge or crisis they must face that can tell us anything about them that we haven't already seen. No. Still, this doesn't make the film shallow, it makes it like life itself: we don't know everything about people we meet or friends we've made, but they remain of interest to us for whichever reasons, among which is, quite simply, that they are real and we can relate to them. In Stranger than Paradise, Willie, his cousin Eva -just off the plane from Hungary-, and his friend Eddie, do and say very normal things in a limited space (the entire film is composed of one-shot scenes; zero camera movement), but their moments together are so well acted and written that they reach levels of intimacy very close to real life. I suppose that's what has given this film as many lovers as detractors; how you experience it has a lot to do with your own perception of day-to-day existence.
Willie and Eddie live in New York, they want to get rich, which is why they're always gambling or something, and when they aren't excited about betting, happy about winning or sad about losing, they drink beer in silence and sit in an ennui they don't quite comprehend. A feeling of insatisfaction and desire for change envelops the entire "plot". One day, Willie's cousin Eva, from Hungary, arrives at NYC and stays with him for a few days before going to live with their aunt in Cleveland. Initially she is quite the nuisance, but her being a brand new element in an otherwise old and bleak panorama entices Willie and Eddie's interest. A year later they decide to embark on a road trip to visit her, and then decide to escape the Cleveland winter and drive with her down to Florida.
Cinematically, roadtrips always go hand in hand with change, realizations, etc. Stranger than Paradise doesn't follow exactly along those lines, although it reaches an ending between tragic and hilarious that definitely involves change. It is a very unique film in that it goes nowhere; even locations as different as New York and Florida, filmed in stark black and white, "seem the same".
The 'meaning' behind it is unclear, although I wonder, MUST it have a meaning? Can't it just be like a photograph or an entry in someone's diary, a recollection of the truth as it is, of the moment as it happened, and nothing else? With that in mind, Stranger than Paradise is engrossing. It has laugh out loud moments and angering displays of human stubborness and stupidity. It's dark, slow, and honest. Willie, Eva and Eddie are played by very talented, charismatic actors who could be out of a new wave film, if they weren't so distinctly American (except for Eva maybe), although I can't quite explain why. This movie is undoubtedly American, infused with its culture, but the filmmaking style is far from the usual in American cinema (although Jarmusch does owe Cassavetes plenty, I know he was not American but his films are landmarks of independent film made in America). Jarmusch may have progressed towards the more 'standard' indie style that predominates today, but this is testament to his capacity and originality, and my personal favorite among his works.
Tim S

Super Reviewer

December 18, 2008
I think as weird as it may sound that I appreciate this movie more than like it. I think that some of the scenes are really great, but there are some that drag the movie down for me. All of the scenes are beautifully shot and acted. John Lurie is fucking awesome. I really enjoyed Broken Flowers and Cigarettes and Coffee, but there are some scenes in this film that just made me bored. Like I said, I appreciate how he made it, but that doesn't mean that it's all good.
Pierluigi P

Super Reviewer

February 20, 2008
As all of Jim Jarmusch works, the meaning of the story is kind of diffuse. however, this slow episodic drama has some very enjoyable moments of intimacy, quietness and even hilarity.
Christopher M

Super Reviewer

March 5, 2007
A slick, gritty little film that had me truly appreciating for the work of Jim Jarmusch for probably the first time. This is a fervently realistic look at the day-to-day lives and adventures of three aimless souls: Willie and his best friend Eddie, two New York hipsters (and wannabe hustlers) , and Willie's Hungarian cousin, Eva. It is told in an episodic manner, with several main sections and each scene like a mini sub-chapter, with fades to black between each. I think that was one of the things I liked most, is the structure - it's really neat. Another thing I appreciated was the fact that Jarmusch chose not to take the obvious sexual/romantic path many other directors would with this story. Instead, he maintains the (somewhat minimal but still present) sexual tension throughout the entire film. The acting is quite flat, but this only added to the down-to-the-grit realism. Its a slow movie with no real payoff or consequences, minimal conflict. It doesn't really go anywhere (though, I think this is the natural path for these particular characters to take), and while that didn't bother me it probably would a lot of people. A great movie if you're in the mood for a laid back indie road movie.
nuheart
nuheart

Super Reviewer

December 26, 2006
Maybe I just don't get Jarmusch.
Michael G

Super Reviewer

November 5, 2006
I enjoyed it even though it seemed to go nowhere.
Mark A

Super Reviewer

August 24, 2011
A strange little road film. shot entirely in black and white, this didn't do much for this viewer. The characters give us little to like about them. The main guy, Willie, is a pretty self-centered little jerk who doesn't seem to have a job, but can afford to live in New York City, and has no compunction about cheating at cards. His pal, Eddie, is a little more human, but is powerless to stand up to Willie. The most sympathetic character is Willie's cousin, Eva, who comes to visit from Hungary and decides to throw in her lot with the guys when a road trip to Florida sounds more exciting than working at a hot dog stand in Cleveland in the winter. The whole film seems like a set up for an ending that played more like a punchline. The only word that comes to mind is pointless. Even after a second viewing (inadvertent, I assure you) it still feels like something is missing, here.
Sheldon C

Super Reviewer

June 7, 2011
Even though it lacks the traditional (or generalized) qualities to ideally be described as entertaining, STRANGER THAN PARADISE is nonetheless a pleasure to watch given the interesting and personable characters and the narrative and cinematographic form in which they are allowed to navigate. Jim Jarmusch's second feature is expressed through a collection of single shots and individual scenes - each separated by brief moments of black, as well as black-and-white photography that strips the detail enough to centralize focus on character actions within simple landscapes. This minimalist approach is not exactly exciting but rather genuine and natural, giving Jarmusch the ability to convey his honest take on American culture through deadpan comedy.
Harlequin68
Harlequin68

Super Reviewer

May 2, 2008
[font=Century Gothic]In "Stranger than Paradise," Willie(John Lurie), ne Bela, is so excited at the prospect of his cousin from Hungary, Eva(Eszter Balint), paying a ten day visit that he does not even meet her at the airport. Relations between the two are shaky until Eva pulls off some nifty shoplifting which impresses him greatly. A year later, Willie and his pal Eddie(Richard Edson), flush with winnings from a poker game, decide to visit Eva in Cleveland.[/font]
[font=Century Gothic][/font]
[font=Century Gothic]Jim Jarmusch directs "Stranger than Paradise" with aplomb, especially the scenes where he opens it up a bit. But even the static indoor scenes are not entirely lifeless. Even with a very clumsy ending, Jarmusch does have quite a bit to say, unlike other directors who have utilized such a deadpan style. No matter how much our surroundings may change(especially with emigres), we do not adapt that quickly. And while there is a certain amount of routine that I follow when I travel(partially explained by my fascination for fast food), I always find it interesting to explore unfamiliar places, even on a local level because it is always good to know one's surroundings well. In the movie, Willie warns Eva away from going south of Clinton Street but not very convincingly.[/font]
Luke E

Super Reviewer

November 24, 2012
Jim Jarmusch's breakthrough film is this superbly crafted urban tale set in the bleak american landscape, where work is little and oportunity is diminishing. Stranger Than Paradise is integently shot and told by Jarmusch along with the performance strengths of the film's three leads. Each Character has their own intentions and ambitions but cannot get along together enough due to the changing world around them. Jarmusch shows his signatory writing style incorporating smart dialogue with deadpan humour. What really works for this film is the sheer amount of substance and awkward reality that constitutes story's morals.
stevetheman1236
stevetheman1236

Super Reviewer

September 10, 2011
Jim Jarmusch is a love-him-or-hate-him kinda guy. His films are always stretched to the extreme (whatever genre they may be) and it requires a specific and finely-tuned taste to like them. Each film in his filmography is completely different from every other. I, for the most part, am not what you'd call a fan, but I do respect his work and him as a filmmaker.

Stranger Than Paradise is one of his films that I like. Throughout the course of the film, not much happens and there's not much said, but it's interesting to watch these characters move about in their lives. They go through their daily routine and nothing exciting happens. It's very realistic. Not everyone always has something to say to one another. Sometimes people just get along while not saying anything at all. Scenes like these are so honest and true-to-life that even if you don't like the movie as a whole, you can't help find it somewhat amusing.

I feel like every time I take a chance to watch a Jarmusch film, it's a 50/50 that I'll like it. But that's a chance I'm willing to take.
Stephen E

Super Reviewer

November 29, 2011
Jim Jarmusch is a love-him-or-hate-him kinda guy. His films are always stretched to the extreme (whatever genre they may be) and it requires a specific and finely-tuned taste to like them. Each film in his filmography is completely different from every other. I, for the most part, am not what you'd call a fan, but I do respect his work and him as a filmmaker.

Stranger Than Paradise is one of his films that I like. Throughout the course of the film, not much happens and there's not much said, but it's interesting to watch these characters move about in their lives. They go through their daily routine and nothing exciting happens. It's very realistic. Not everyone always has something to say to one another. Sometimes people just get along while not saying anything at all. Scenes like these are so honest and true-to-life that even if you don't like the movie as a whole, you can't help find it somewhat amusing.

I feel like every time I take a chance to watch a Jarmusch film, it's a 50/50 that I'll like it. But that's a chance I'm willing to take.
Tom S

Super Reviewer

October 2, 2007
Every shot is something I would put on my wall. Every scene could stand alone as a short film. Aunt Lotte is someone I want in my extended family.
Alex H

Super Reviewer

December 23, 2010
Jim Jarmusch is the master of dead pan. One of the greatest American films of all time.
Ivan D

Super Reviewer

September 3, 2010
I look at the year this film was made(1984) and found how well it has aged. Maybe it's the unusual style, or the effortless telling of the story itself, but one thing's for sure, and it's my conclusion that I have really seen something very special. Honestly speaking, after my last viewing of Jarmusch's fiasco "The Limits of Control", I have expected this film to be another pretentious exercise of the said medium: Lots of philosophical nonsense and pseudo-intellectual displays. But quite the contrary, "Stranger Than Paradise" surprised me at how simple its narrative really is, with wide scenes only a quarter filled with its three major characters, but their unorthodox relationship and mutual bond is enough to fill the entire screen with immense presence (although one which is bound by simplicity). It's a slow-moving, observing film, with Jim Jarmusch using black and white to create an unusual sense of emptiness and solitude even in the most mainstream of places(New York, Florida). Black and White color is used vastly in films with different reasons: Be it to conform with budget constraints, to be considered as an artistic expression, or even as simple as a colorization of a flashback in a full-color film. But never has it been mentioned that it's used to transcend a film's time of creation; well, that's the case for "Stranger Than Paradise".
Robert F

Super Reviewer

June 18, 2009
Not a lot to it, certainly, but the acting and performances combine to produce an obliquely effective study of the effect of landscape upon emotion, and the wry, dry humour is often quite amusing.
hawkledge
hawkledge

Super Reviewer

January 27, 2009
Minimalist cool, avant-garde comedy. Director Jim Jarmusch's use of long takes and slow fades to black punctuates the humor of his characters' boredom, ennui, and frustration. John Lurie is brilliantly understated in the lead role, together with Richard Edson and Eszter Balint.
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