5 October 2014

Jarmusch Colection Blu-ray Review - Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

Comedy, Drama
Soda Pictures
BD Release Date:
6th October 2014 (UK)
Rating: 18
Jim Jarmusch
John Lurie, Eszter Balint,Richard Edison
Buy:Jim Jarmusch Box Set [Blu-ray]

Stranger Than Paradise was the film that made Jim Jarmusch’s name, and became one of the first films to come out of Independent film boom of the 80s and 90s. It also has the feel of a first film despite it being Jarmusch’s second feature length film: it’s the first one that is quintessential Jarmusch. It has the characters who are hipper than hip, which are still prevalent in his work—for example in his latest film, Only Lovers Left Alive.

It is a master class in minimalist storytelling, not unlike the minimalism one of Jarmusch’s heroes, Robert Bresson, employed in his work. It’s the story of the New York hipster Wllie (John Lurie) whose Hungarian cousin Eva (Eszter Balint) is visiting but is forced to stay at his place after their Aunt Lotte lands in the hospital. Initially he makes it clear he doesn’t want her to stay, but gradually he starts to enjoy her company. After 10 days she leaves for Cleveland, and the film picks up a year later when Willie and his friend Eddie (Richard Edson) decided to pay Eva a visit.

The film’s performances are naturalistic partly due to all the cast basically playing versions of themselves. Tom DiCillo, who would later be a noted director in his own right with films like Johnny Suede and Living in Oblivion, did the cinematography. It’s shot on leftover film stock, which was supplied by Wim Wenders. Wenders became a friend of Jim Jarmusch’s after watching Permanent Vacation.

The film, despite its obvious limitations and the 30 years that have passed since its release, still is as fresh and exciting when it first came out. It has aged perfectly; it’s a snapshot of a time but at the same time remains timeless, which might be down to the use of black and white. It broke the perceived notion of the independent film as inaccessible artsy crap and made it possible to be entertaining and funny outside the big studio system. It was one of the first micro-budget films that would be a box-office success, something that would be the norm a decade later. It also wound up winning numerous awards, including the Camera D’or at 1984 Cannes film festival.

The film has been restored for this Blu-Ray release and looks as good as the film could possibly ever look due to it’s budget. It includes a silent short “making of,” which was shot by Jim Jarmusch’s brother Tom. It also includes the trailers for Stranger Than Paradise along with trailers for Jarmusch’s other films.

Ian Schultz

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