Film, Go To

GO TO: Stranger than Paradise (1984) dir. Jim Jarmusch

Screens Wednesday, 12/15 @ Brattle


When I fatefully stumbled across Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan in middle school, I was enthralled with its utilization of small-conversational flow to fill the negative spaces between characters. Verbal communication is the center of the camera’s eye ― but it’s delivered so matter-of-factly that the jab of jealousy or a slip of sadness might be more surprising to hear than the charged outburst in the usual emotional outlet.

Martini glasses are replaced with TV dinners in Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger than Paradise, a sardonic salute to kindness and the honor of caring for one another even if it doesn’t come out right. At the behest of his aunt Lotte, city-bred Willie (John Lurie) begrudgingly houses his Hungarian cousin Eva (Eszter Balint) for a week after she stops by New York on her way to Cleveland. He doesn’t particularly identify as Hungarian nor as an attentive relative, as he scolds Eva not to speak the language and to generally get out of his way. If Eva was looking for the American dream, it most likely wasn’t going to be found on a cramped Brooklyn poker table.

Eventually, Eva plays to Willie’s groove, even if they’re listening to two different songs (clearly Screamin’ Jay Hawkins for Eva, and probably Lurie’s jazz-line contributions for his character). His inexplicable fondness of her is apparent when Eva leaves, and without admission of such feeling, Willie returns to his buddy-gambles with his friend Eddie (Richard Edson). After some time passes and boredom heightens, Willie and Eddie decide to head to Cleveland to see Eva.

Texturally, the film bows to the New York hipster drip of the ’80s, a counterculture essential to Jarmusch’s vitality. Willie’s leather jacket armoring his heathered sweater seems like a more careful curation than one would want to admit, but the grayscale and minimal set changes meet the film’s call for the pastime of casual efforts in living. Intended efforts might not be cool in this world but the performances speak for the characters when words fail (or are mumbled). If you’re in disbelief that there is an airport chase scene, then you may just have to see it for yourself.

Stranger than Paradise
dir. Jim Jarmusch
89 mins

Screens Wednesday, 12/15, 5:00 and 7:15 @ Brattle Theatre – on 35mm!
Part of the ongoing series: Let’s Hear It for 1984!

Local journalism is more important now than ever. Please support the Hassle by donating to our annual GoFundMe Fundraiser, subscribing to our Patreon, or making a one-time donation via PayPal.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License(unless otherwise indicated) © 2019