For Reel

Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
December 11, 2016, 8:14 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Jim Jarmusch
5 Stars
stranger-than-paradiseJim Jarmusch’s second film lays the groundwork for much of his career to come. Three characters try to keep themselves from boredom, traveling the country only to discover that just about anywhere they go looks the same as anywhere else. The new lives are the same as the old ones. But to call Jarmusch a cynic is a misunderstanding—there is a sweetness to his friendships, typified most beautifully by the persistently optimistic, cheery Eddie (Richard Edson). Although he seems a strange match for Hungarian emigrant Willie (John Lurie) due to the latter’s depressed, cheerless demeanor, Edson’s performance suggests a hopeful resilience in the face of monotony. Or, at the very least, he handles his boredom well. In Stranger Than Paradise, much like all of Jarmusch’s films, the characters take reprieve from their isolation through art—here, 16-year-old Eva (Eszter Balint) idolizes Screamin’ Jay Hawkins while the two men park themselves in front of the television and discuss what movie they will see next. When they discuss the merits of Tokyo Story, a film which is similarly uneventful on the surface, Jarmusch seems to be arguing that cinema is not necessarily only means for escape, but rather a way of capturing and rendering poetic a sense of listlessness.

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