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Stranger Than Paradise
Stranger Than Paradise
Actors: John Lurie, Eszter Balint, Richard Edson, Cecillia Stark, Danny Rosen
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
R     2000     1hr 29min

Back in the excess-is-best 1980s, the pared-down minimalism of 1984's Stranger than Paradise played like the product of another time--or even another planet. It was so "off," i.e. offbeat and off-kilter, it was (right) on....  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: John Lurie, Eszter Balint, Richard Edson, Cecillia Stark, Danny Rosen
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Creators: Tom DiCillo, Sara Driver, Jim Jarmusch, Melody London, Otto Grokenberger
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama
Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
Format: DVD - Black and White,Widescreen,Anamorphic - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 09/05/2000
Original Release Date: 01/01/1984
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/1984
Release Year: 2000
Run Time: 1hr 29min
Screens: Black and White,Widescreen,Anamorphic
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 15
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: Spanish, French
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Movie Reviews

Brilliant, hilarious study of aimlessness & anomie
Lleu Christopher | Hudson Valley, NY | 12/25/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This deceptively simple movie, Jim Jarmusch's first, has been called the first modern independent film. Shot in black and white, it follows the nonadventures of three completely aimless characters, Willie, Eddie and Willie's cousin Eva. The first scenes mostly show Willie lying in bed or smoking a cigarette in his dingy Brooklyn apartment. His friend Eddie visits and they sit silently drinking beer. When Cousin Eva from Hungary arrives, the three of them sit around watching television. Not very exciting maybe, but there is a subtle genius to the way this film progresses. Eva goes to Cleveland to live with her aunt; Eddie and Willie decide to visit her. Soon the three drive down to Florida. Each landscape is portrayed as desolate and depressing. The shots look like black and white photos from the Old West, or perhaps the depression. Gradually the three interact and display emotion, though it is all within the rigid confines of their incredibly limited existence. There is quite a bit of deadpan humor, which works precisely because the actors seem unaware of it. The performances are all completely natural and understated, containing none of the self-conscious hipness of many more recent art films. This is probably the closest any film has come to portraying a pure existentialism that is both funny and tragic. These characters utterly lack any sense of purpose, ambition or connectedness to a wider world. What's more and what is a little disturbing is the way this film, if you get into the spirit of it, makes you seriously question whether anyone can truly break through these limits. On one level, we can wonder at and laugh at the apparent stupidity of these people as they sit in silence or engage in ridiculous conversations about nothing. On another level these scenes have an honesty and simple intensity that makes you (or me at least) suspect that the grandiose plans, action and meaning that fills the screen in most other films is mainly pomp and vanity. I admire the way Jarmusch allows nothing to happen much of the time. It's a refreshing contrast to mainstream films filled with mindless action, tediously hip dialogue and "meaningful" relationships. Not that all films should be like Stranger Than Paradise; but its unique style puts other films --and life--into a new and greater perspective."
Low-budget, minimalist meditation on the American Dream
Matthew Parks | DURHAM, NC USA | 12/15/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Mundane and deliberately paced, yet strangely appealing, this oddball ultra-low-budget movie (made with left-over film stock given to Jarmusch by director Wim Wenders) from Jarmusch deals with three people who take an unsuccessful road trip from Detroit to Florida. The DVD reveals the limitations of the original film, both in terms of sound and picture. It's grainy thoughout, and the dialogue does not always sound clear. Luckily, both of these strike you as appropriate for this film. Jarmusch's characters stubbornly refuse to reveal much of anything about themselves, either to the audience or to each other.Many find Stranger than Paradise difficult to watch, mostly because of Jarmusch minimalist approach to this film, along with the fact that boredom, frustration, and disappointment are the primary elements of the film's subject. There's very little action. . .it's not funny, exactly. . .there's not a lot of drama. . .there's no sex. . .but somehow it still manages to succeed without all of that."
Engrossing Film By Jarmusch
Reviewer | 11/16/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)

"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."
Hello? Is any body out there?
S. brabson | Los Angeles, CA United States | 11/10/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I'm laughing at some of these reviews. Nothing happens? There really is no message? Boring? No character depth?
People, it's not hard to get an education in this country. Maybe some you should look into enrolling somewhere. There are immensly tantilzing themes in this movie which are dramatized so beautifully it's almost painful. Not one person touched on the startling power of a young man who falls in love with his own cousin. Talk about immposible love. Or the slow, almost invisible build of their friendship told exclusively through subtext revealed through a bare minimum of words.No theme? The scene of three young people looking out into the white fog over a winter lake not obvious enough? This image perfectly captures the frustration of looking for an illusive, promised paradise in the land of milk and honey.
These aren't three boring people with boring lives. This is us. Get it?"