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Stranger Than Paradise
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Product Description

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. Now seen as a classic of American independent cinema, it compares favorably to other monochromatic first features, like Border Radio and Mala Noche (also lovingly restored by the movie mavens at the Criterion Collection). The acclaim was justified--except it wasn't Jarmusch's first film. That honor belongs to 1980's Permanent Vacation, making its long-awaited digital debut on this two-disc set. Shot by Tom DiCillo, Jarmusch's initial offering revolves around the name Parker: Chris Parker is Aloysious Parker, a ducktailed New Yorker with a jones for Charlie Parker. Allie's a drifter and a dime-store philosopher. "That's how thing work for me," he drawls in voice-over, "I go from this place, this person, to that place or person." And so he does. Fresh from NYU, where he assisted Nicholas Ray, Jarmusch displays an innate talent for framing and dialogue (Allie lives for "vibrating, bugged-out sound"). His touch with actors--Frankie Faison's raconteur aside--is less assured, but he learned quickly. Lounge Lizard John Lurie cameos as a sax player. DiCillo returns for Stranger than Paradise, in which he and Jarmusch trade color for black and white stock (donated by Wim Wenders). In this "semi-neorealist black comedy," as the filmmaker puts it in the production notes (included with this set), Hungarian teenager Eva (Eszter Balint) arrives in New York ("The New World") to stay with her cousin, Willie (Lurie). A drifter, like Allie, she continues on to Cleveland ("One Year Later") and Florida ("Paradise"). With nothing better to do, Willie and Eddie (Richard Edson) tag along. As opposed to the rapid-fire cutting of the day, Jarmusch uses static shots divided by black screen. He may have taken cues from Ozu and The Honeymooners--dig those porkpie hats--but the end product couldn¡¯t be more idiosyncratic.

This director-approved double-feature comes complete with a German TV documentary (Kino '84: Jim Jarmusch), behind-the-scenes footage, US and Japanese trailers, and a 44-page booklet with essays by J. Hoberman and Luc Sante. Just as Stranger than Paradise stands as one of the defining films of the 1980s, this special edition represents one of the most essential DVD releases of the 2000s. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Customer Reviews:

  • Not That Strange, and Not A Paradise
    I love many Indie films, obviously with a two star rating I do not like Stranger Than Paradise. I'm not going to use my college term paper that I wrote to show how smart I am posting it here (I never went to film class in College, that's a joke), I'm just going to give a LITTLE balance to what I feel was a real rip off. This film is engaging the first time you watch it but if you value your time, it totally rips you off in the end leaving you hanging and felling like you just lost at three card Monty, a set up pool game, crooked craps, and whatever else you may have been physiologically raped in your past. Watch this all the way through and that's the feeling you may (or may not for all I know, so many people love it, but just not me) feel. One qualifying note, if you enjoyed Ghost World, this is in the same vein of entertainment. I actually liked this better then GW, because I liked the characters, but it just ended in the last 30 minutes like it was never based on a script. Rental material before you purchase. I doubt you will ever re-watch this after the first time....more info
  • What's brown and sounds like a bell?
    It's an old Python joke but it best sums up my feeling towards all the glowing reviews of what appears to be a technically competent but boring movie. Seriously, though. I did write a very fair and objective review of this film a few months back but it never got posted. So instead of retrying to capture the essence of that first review, I'll just give you my side. Obviously, I hated it. I watched it several times to try to see what in heck its admirers saw in it and I'm still at a loss. And I happen to love independent cinema. I also attended class at NYU with the actress and would loved to have showed others but I can not see anyone beyond the already converted who would be able to stay with the movie more than 5 minutes. I honestly feel there is an Emporer's New Clothes mentality at work where a good portion of the people are afraid to admit that the "don't get it". As a film geek with an extensive video collection of independent films, I can say with confidence and reassurance to those supposedly clueless people that THERE IS NOTHING TO GET. Nothing acting (and Ms. Balint can act a helluva lot better than what is shown here), nothing dialogue, nothing plot. gimmicky blackouts and master shots do not add up to something. At least not in this fellow's eyes.
    And now for the PC tag: Film, as with anything in the arts, is subjective. There is no good or bad. If you like it, great. Then to you it's good. So I do not discourage anyone from seeing this film. I'll just give my opinion and one star rating (and believe me, if I had the option, I would have been pressed to give this over rated movie a 1/2 star).
    Oh, and to non-Python fans, the answer to the joke is DUNG....more info
  • Stranger Than Paradise is a great movie
    Stranger Than Paradise is the most original, sensitive, intelligently humorous and satisfying movie I have ever seen. Someday, if not already, it will rank with the greatest movies of all time. In my opinion, Stranger Than Paradise is a masterpiece of film making. I own this movie and I don't own many, not many at all. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see a movie of unique vision, originality and content....more info
  • zzzzzzzzzzzz
    Dull doesn't begin to describe this movie. I got the feeling that the camera man was on quaaludes, and the actors wished they were. We did get a few laughs out of the movie, but I assure you, the director didn't mean them.

    I'm not quite sure why anyone would think of this 'story' and even put it down on paper, let alone make a movie out of it. I'm pretty easy to please, but when the most exciting moment in a whole movie is a toss-up between someone's aunt winning a hand of cards, or someone else swiping a vase off a shelf, I have to say pass on this one, and spend your money on something a little more entertaining....more info

  • A little too minimal
    Next to your average, American Joe, I consider myself to be pretty preferential to minimalism, but this is a little past where I draw the line. I really wanted to like this movie, but nothing happens. Maybe somehow that's the point, and I just didn't get it or something, but it's boring as hell. The performances are good, but most of the time the actors aren't acting; they're just sitting there as the camera films them. It's a lot like watching a friend's home movies, except only the stuff where nothing's really happening. I didn't count the lines in the film, but I'm pretty sure I could. The camera work is good and so is the editing, but those things alone couldn't hold my interest....more info
  • Great DVD, but shipping was late
    This is one of my favorite movies, this criterion collection is awesome !!! No problem with the dvd at all, but it arrived 2 weeks later. ...more info
  • Just boring
    The only funny scene in the movie is when Wille explains to his cousin what is the american food. The music is not bad, but the movie is just boring: nothing happened, nothing to talk about. May be there are couple of good operator shots, but this is easy to make with Black and White movie....more info
  • Diane Arbus, With Charm
    The many virtues of Jarmusch's second feature, the 1984 "Stranger Than Paradise," have largely been pointed out here already. Thus the novel structure of single take scenes divided by black frames, the low key, seemingly natural acting, and the wonderful photography which creates a requisite ugly "sameness," whether the locale is the Lower East Side, wintry Cleveland or the Florida boondocks, need not be discussed again at length here.

    One aspect of this memorable film which should be more clearly emphasized, however, is its remarkable tone, one which the relatively young director establishes and never loses control of. It is a tone which combines satire free of sourness with an unforced charm never tumbling into sentimentality. Though the central male characters, Willy and Eddie, are petty card cheats and race track gamblers who are on the road and drifting through existence without much purpose, they are often undeniably charming, even believably sweet. Noteworthy in this regard is Eddie's endearing wish to include visiting cousin Eva from Budapest in the gambling pair's daily activities and gruff Willy's even buying her a dress, although an ugly one, to wear to Cleveland. Similarly, this heroine Eva not only establishes her right to membership on their team through her theft of groceries and cigarettes for the initially unfriendly Willy, but reveals at the same time her own sweetness in consistently sharing any ill gotten gains with both of these hapless guys.


    The principal Arbus-like ugliness in the film is in its scenery and costumes. The chief characters who inhabit it, for all their petty flaws, are at the same time unwittingly charming, while never sickeningly so. Such tonal security and balance in a new director's film is an exceedingly rare and welcome achievement....more info
  • Not for everyone
    I saw this movie in 1984 in a great old theatre in Sacramento, California...three times. This is without a doubt my favorite movie of all time. I've read all the reviews and believe me, I get it. This movie arouses either passion or boredom, there is no in between. I love it though.
    I laugh hard everytime Eddie explains 'choking the alligator'. The extended scenes without dialogue are wonderful. I fell in love with Eva for awhile I'm sure.
    If you're brave, take a chance and you might find a new favorite movie....more info
  • Cultural Aspirations
    Well, an original debut for a young director, but don't expect plot and pacing. The actors take their time, maybe improvising. John Laurie is a young horse and card playing con trying to forget that his relatives are all from Hungry. Enter his cousin, Eszter Balint from the old country and he get's a dose of what he's trying to forget. The irony, both Laurie and Balint have a real love for things American, the music, the clothes, and attitudes, but as if a Saturday Night Live skit from the 80's rematerialized, there's something a little too much or a little too small about their cultural aspirations. And that's the joke of this semi-road movie across America....more info
  • classic.
    i don't care what anyone says, i love this movie.

    sure, the plot is simplistic.

    sure, nothing much happens.

    but that, of course, is what jarmusch was trying to acheive. personally, i think that jarmusch is the woody allen of deadpan humor. by using static black and white shots and an extremely minimal soundtrack (two songs), jarmusch is able to masterfully establish emotions, provoke humor, and generally all-around set the mood well. the film is done in a minimalist style, which of course only adds to the hilariously deadpan humor. this is, overall, a true independent film classic...more info

  • Hello? Is any body out there?
    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?...more info