Stranger Than Paradise (1984)


Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

USA/, 1984. , , . Screenplay by , partly based on an idea by . Cinematography by . Produced by . Music by John Lurie. Production Design by , , , . Film Editing by Jim Jarmusch, .

Thanks to Jim Jarmusch having disowned his actual first feature, Permanent Vacation, this is considered his official debut; it is most definitely where the cult of Jarmusch began, there’s a sense of intelligent cool laid over the entire experience that makes its spare plotting feel important and its minutely subtle humour feel profound, which would come to be the signature style that would endear him to his fans. Shot in a hazy black and white with images that highlight the figures on screen by favouring plenty of empty space around them, the film covers three extremely different destinations as three character form a friendly bond that keeps them connected without ever becoming anything unnecessarily melodramatic.   is upset when his aunt calls him and tells him that his cousin () is coming from Hungary to live with her in Cleveland but is going to spend ten days in New York City with him first. They enjoy some football games on the tube as Lurie grows an affectionate fondness for the initially unwanted visitor, then after she heads to the Midwest he and his buddy take their winnings and head out to find her amid the blizzards and snowbanks of Ohio. They go to the movies, visit Balint at the diner she works at and eventually convince her to come to Florida with them where they plan to enjoy their days at the racetrack, which she agrees to come along for. Imagine the subtle spontaneity of Chaplin’s most poignant works without the ornate sentimentality and you have the rhythm of this witty, wonderful film, whose story takes a delightful final twist in its conclusion while set in the run-down motel blandness of its last setting.

Toronto International Film Festival: 1984


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