Jim Jarmusch. Stranger Than Paradise. 1984

Jim Jarmusch Stranger Than Paradise 1984

  • Not on view

This watershed of low-budget, independent cinema is a hip, minimalist comedy, described by Jarmusch as a story about exile, about America seen through the eyes of strangers. Structured as a road movie in three chapters—The New World (New York), One Year Later (Cleveland), and Paradise (Florida)—and staged as a series of blackout vignettes, it observes the alliance of three immigrant souls—two small-time con men, Willy and Eddie, and their newly arrived Hungarian cousin, Eva — aimlessly experiencing the mundane in search of a meaningful way of life.

The film is a studied, craftsmanlike distillation of creative influences. Mentored by German filmmaker Wim Wenders, Jarmusch, like Wenders, sees America with irony, as a series of smokestacks, asphalt highways, motel signs, factories, and empty spaces. Jarmusch is an actor-oriented director, and his work may be compared to that of American director John Cassavetes, although his improvised pop Neorealism is fully scripted and carefully rehearsed and choreographed. Radically unlike the splashy music videos exploding all around it in the early 1980s, _Stranger Than Paradise'_s low-key mise-en-scène, inspired by the work of Danish mid-century director Carl Th. Dreyer, simplifies the content of the film frame and eliminates visual information as a means of focusing on the psychology of the characters.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 54.
Christoph Holch, Sara Driver
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