Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
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A critic once described Waiting for Godot as a play in which nothing happens twice. Stranger Than Paradise is a film in which nothing happens approximately seventy-five times.
A very early picture for Jim Jarmusch, Stranger Than Paradise tracks a teenage Hungarian immigrant, her New York-based cousin and his hapless friend in an immigrant story/road movie hybrid that defies convention to make a statement about its characters, and people like them. See, it doesn't matter where they are - New York, Cleveland, Florida - these three never find anything to do. Every place is the same, helped along by unglamorous locations and, in this case, drab black and white. Their lack of imagination makes it impossible for them to do anything new, regardless of their location, even though they feel restless where they are. Their whole lives are TV dinners. The guys even look like one another. It seems the best they can ever do is go back to where they started, and such returns enliven the third act. And perhaps this is also a statement on immigration, a kind of blank homesickness married to the boredom of not knowing anyone in a new place. Tourists have fun, immigrants have to get down to the mechanics of settling and making a living. It's a comedy, but a satirical one, letting the audience choose if they want to mock the characters low ambitions and idleness, or if they'd rather not, given their own predilections.
watched this with my cousin last night. we both truly disliked it. afterwards we proceeded to have a conversation for a good few hours dissecting precisely why..
I was actually with it for the first 30-40 mins, but then what was seemingly a gentle build up really did lead absolutely nowhere in terms of characterisation, drama or directorial statement. the emperor's new clothes for me. I'm absolutely shocked that it's almost universally admired.
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In 13 official lists
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This movie ranks #37 in Spike Lee's Essential List of Films for Filmmakers
This movie ranks #52 in Locarno Film Festival - Golden Leopard
This movie ranks #79 in BFI's 100 Road Movies
This movie ranks #83 in BFI's 100 American Independent Films
This movie ranks #88 in Akira Kurosawa's A Dream Is a Genius
This movie ranks #316 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films
This movie ranks #367 in Library of Congress's National Film Registry
This movie ranks #376 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time
This movie ranks #425 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #715 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #779 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #835 in The New York Times's Book of Movies
This movie ranks #854 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die