Stranger Than Paradise
In the first act, Willie, a surly small-time gambler and hustler of Hungarian origin, receives a phone call from his Aunt Lotte in Cleveland informing him that his expected visit by his cousin Eva, who is coming from Hungary to live with Lotte, will have to be extended to ten days because Lotte is unexpectedly in the hospital. Willie makes it clear that he does not want Eva there. When Eva arrives, he orders her to speak English rather than Hungarian, as Willie strongly identifies as "American." He grudgingly begins to enjoy her company. He becomes protective, discouraging her from going out alone, or beyond certain streets. At one point, Eva takes the initiative to clean the apartment, which is fairly dirty. When she finds his vacuum cleaner, Willie playfully tries to persuade her that an American expression for vacuuming is "choking the alligator", but Eva doesn't believe him.
Stranger Than Paradise
Writer and director Jim Jarmusch shot his first feature, Permanent Vacation (1980) as his final thesis at New York University's film school and spent the next four years making Stranger than Paradise. At NYU he studied under director Nicholas Ray, who had brought him along as his personal assistant for the production of Lightning over Water, a portrait of Ray being filmed by Wim Wenders. Wenders gave Jarmusch the remaining film stock from his subsequent film, Der Stand der Dinge (1982), enabling the young director to shoot the 30-minute short that became Stranger Than Paradise. It was released as a standalone film in 1982, and shown as "Stranger Than Paradise" at the 1983 International Film Festival Rotterdam. When it was later expanded into a three-act feature, the name was appropriated for the feature itself, and the initial segment was renamed "The New World".
In 2002, Stranger Than Paradise was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". It was included in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Alternate 100, a response to the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Movies list. In 2003, Entertainment Weekly ranked it #26 on their list of "The Top 50 Cult Films". Empire Magazine ranked it #14 on its list of 50 Greatest Independent Films of All Time.
The screen is filled with large letters: ONE YEAR LATER. This in itself is funny, that we'd get such a momentous time cue in a movie where who even knows what day it is. Eddie and Willie get in some trouble over a poker game and Eddie suddenly remembers Willie's cousin in Cleveland. They go to see her. It is cold in Cleveland. Eva has bought the American Dream and is working in a fast-food outlet. They all go to look at the lake, which is frozen. Aunt Lottie turns out to make Clara Peller look like Dame Peggy Ashcroft. The guys say to hell with it and head for Florida. Then they come back and get Eva and take her along with them. They have a postcard that makes Florida look like paradise, but they wind up living at one of those hotels where the permanent guests live in the woodwork. Everything goes sour. Eva wants to go back to Hungary. The guys lose all their money at the dog races. Creeps start hanging around. It will take a miracle to give this movie an upbeat ending. There is a miracle.
The only thing I really know for certain about these Jim Jarmusch movies is that I don't feel like I know enough about film to explain what they do that's so magical. Like with Down By Law, I came away from Stranger Than Paradise having fallen in love with all three protagonists. Something about them just feels so much more genuine than I'm used to. I also love the way Jarmusch shoots his scenes, basically choosing a location for the camera and moving it as little as possible until the scene ends. Maybe it's cinematic minimalism, but for me it's much more aesthetically pleasing than something which is constantly cutting to new angles.
ASK THE AVERAGE WESTERNER what he knows about the Philippines and the reply will likely touch on Imelda Marcos's shoe collection, or Manny Pacquiao's knock-out record, or the Bataan Death March, or other things that don't necessarily scream "paradise."
Adaptation Expansion: Began as a 1982 short film that corresponds to the first part of this movie. When Jarmusch got his hands on a little cash he filmed the second and third acts.
The Big Rotten Apple: Willie lives in a particularly grungy part of New York (apparently the Lower East Side) with boarded-up windows, graffiti-splattered buildings, and garbage scattered in the streets. When Eva says she's going out, he warns her to not go more than two blocks south, because it's not safe.
Book Ends: The first shot is Eva, newly arrived in America, watching planes take off from the airport. One of the last scenes is a similarly staged shot showing Eddie watching Willie's plane to Budapest take off.
Creator Cameo: Jim Jarmusch appears at the hot dog stand, eating a hot dog while wearing a beanie.
Deliberately Monochrome: Shot on the cheap, with a black and white look that fits the mood of aimlessness and ennui.
Deus ex Machina: Eva buys a wide-brimmed hat at the sad little gift shop near their sad little motel. She goes out walking on the beach, only to meet a drug dealer who mistakes her for a courier. The drug dealer hands over a fat envelope stuffed with $100 bills. Eva makes a rapid departure with the money. Moments later the real courier, a similarly-dressed woman in a wide-brimmed hat, shows up.
Fixing the Game: One of the ways Willie and Eddie eke out their meager existences is by cheating at poker games. They have to exit one apartment in a hurry after another player figures out their scheme.
Funny Foreigner: Cantankerous old Aunt Lotte, who says stuff like "I am the vinner" when she wins at cards, or "Son of a beetch" when Eva leaves with the guys.
Leave the Camera Running: The film consists of 67 scenes. Each scene is a single take, without any cuts. In most of the scenes, the camera doesn't move.
Minimalism: Focuses almost exclusively on three characters who do and say very little. The film has only a few mundane locations, uses black and white film, and features long periods without any dialogue. The film also has a very slow pace, with a total of 67 shots. In between each shot, Jarmusch inserted black space to further slow down the pace.
Plot Hole: So, Willie took his passport with him to Cleveland and Florida for no particular reason? And if he didn't have his passport, how did he board a flight to Budapest?
Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Willie is a Hungarian immigrant to the United States who considers himself assimilated into American culture...which he apparently defines as acting like a 1950s beatnik.
Real Time: Well, the movie isn't real time. But each scene is a single uninterrupted take, without any cuts or edits, so each scene takes place in real time.
Shout-Out: Willie and Eva watch Forbidden Planet on TV.
Slice of Life: Nothing really happens in the movie. Willie, Eddie, and Eva hang out in New York. The guys visit Eva in Cleveland. They go to Florida. Willie's stupidity gets him on a plane to Budapest. That's it.
Stealing from Thieves: Eva is taking a walk when a drug dealer mistakes her for a courier and gives her an envelope fat with $100 bills. She leaves town immediately.
Time Skip: "One Year Later" between Eva's departure to Cleveland and Willie and Eddie going out there to visit. A little Black Comedy, as it feels like it could be ten years or fifty years and Willie and Eddie would be doing the same thing.
Contrast is good, with strong black levels, and the grayscale manages to smoothly transition. There are still a few instances of damage, from minor scratches and bits of dirt to slight fluctuations and stains, but on the whole the image is incredibly clean, much better than I had been expecting. 041b061a72