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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Stranger Than Paradise (1984) d. Jim Jarmusch

Eszter Balint plays Eva, a recent Hungarian emigre with a penchant for 50s slang and the work of Screaming Jay Hawkins

Movie Review
Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
 d. Jim Jarmusch
Criterion Collection #400

  Stranger Than Paradise wasn't his first feature, but it was his first film to bring him a wide audience and it remains a widely viewed classic.  Certainly a must for hipsters and would-be hipsters between the ages of 30 and 60, Stranger Than Paradise is a movie about Slackers a decade plus before the term was invented, and an important link in the timeline of Hipster culture between the Beats and the present day.  Shot in black and white, Stranger Than Paradise stars John Lurie (from Fishing With John IFC show) as a feckless, unemployed Hungarian immigrant hipster called Willie.  His only onscreen friend is Eddie, played by Richard Edson (you'll recognize him when you see him.)   They spend their time on the Lower East Side watching television, drinking beer out of cans and hustling poker games.

 Nothing changes when Eva, Willie's Hungarian cousin appears fresh from Budapest, and is forced to wait for ten days while her eventual host, Aunt Lotte in Cleveland, gets some surgery done.  Willie continues to eat tv dinners, watch football but now with Eva sitting nearby in his tiny apartment.  He warms a bit at the end of her ten day stay, buying her an ugly dress that she promptly throws into the garbage on the way to Cleveland.

 Fast forward a year, and Willie and Eddie decide to take a road trip to Cleveland, where they find Eva working at a "hot dog restaurant" and pass the time playing cards with a bemused Aunt Lotte.  On a whim, the two turn around as they are about to leave town and drive with Eva to Florida, where things do not go well.  Stranger Than Paradise is an eminently watchable feature 30 years later, and the wry humor and static compositions that characterize Jarmusch's mature output are very much in evidence.


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