Stranger Than Paradise | Chicago Reader

Stranger Than Paradise

Jim Jarmusch's amusing independent feature welds European modernism and American sleaze to produce a very workable definition of hip, circa 1984. A New York lowlifer (musician John Lurie) reluctantly agrees to share his fleabag apartment for ten days with a newly immigrated Hungarian cousin (Eszter Balint); though they don't exactly hit it off, he's smitten enough to follow her one year later to Cleveland, where he persuades her to join him and his burned-out buddy (Richard Edson) on a depressive joyride to off-season Florida. The film is divided into a series of very brief scenes, each shot in a single long, static take; by the end Jarmusch seems constrained by his own formal ploy, though much of the time the impassive camera serves to echo and underline the absurd underreactions of the characters, which become the film's chief comic principle. Jarmusch's eye for blighted landscape (he films in a grainy black and white) is hilariously sharp, and he sends his performers on their zomboid rounds with a keen sense of rhythm and interplay.

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