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Stranger Than Paradise [Criterion Collection] [DVD] [1984]

Release Date:09/04/2007
Jim Jarmusch's breakthrough film, a one-of-a-kind comedy about a trio of low-rent bohemians and their lackadaisical adventures through America, gets a definitive home video presentation in this DVD release from the Criterion Collection. Created with the active participation of Jarmusch (and officially approved by the director), Stranger Than Paradise has been given a widescreen transfer to disc in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1, letterboxed on conventional televisions and enhanced for anamorphic play on 16x9 monitors. Tom DiCillo's camerawork has never looked better than it does on this disc, and while the black and white images still lean to the grainy and murky side, the widescreen transfer flatters his intelligent framings and makes the most of the film's purposefully grimy look. The audio has been mastered in Dolby Digital Mono, and sounds good, though the limitations of the location recordings occasionally become evident. The dialogue is in English (except for the occasional Hungarian rants from Aunt Lotte), and the disc includes no multiple language options, though optional English subtitles have been included. Disc two of this set is devoted to bonus material, the most notable item being the first North American DVD release of Jarmusch's little-seen debut film, 1980's Permanent Vacation, which looks a bit more polished than Stranger Than Paradise (if for no other reason than it's in color). Also included is a German television documentary on Jarmusch (which devotes equal time to Permanent Vacation and Stranger Than Paradise), behind-the-scenes Super-8 footage taken by Tom Jarmusch (Jim's brother) from the Cleveland shooting schedule, American and Japanese trailers for Stranger Than Paradise, and a gallery of snapshots from location scouting trips. The handsome booklet includes an essay by Jarmusch on Stranger Than Paradise, appreciations of the film by J. Hoberman and Geoff Andrew, and a short piece on Permanent Vacation by Luc Sante, followed by a longer meditation from the same author on pre-gentrification New York City. Stranger Than Paradise was a watershed work in the early inning of the American independent film movement, and this DVD set beautifully captures its qualities, as well as the idiosyncratic talent that helped Jarmusch become a major American filmmaker over the decades that followed.

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    Special Features

    • Disc One:
    • New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Jim Jarmusch
    • Disc Two:
    • Permanent Vacation (1980, 75 minutes), Jarmusch's first full-length feature, presented in a new, restored high-definiton digital transfer, supervised by the director
    • Kino '84: Jim Jarmusch, a 1984 German television program featuring interviews with cast and crew from Stranger Than Paradise and Permanent Vacation
    • Some Days in January 1984, a behind-the-scenes Super 8 film by Tom Jarmusch
    • Location scouting photos
    • U.S. and Japanese trailers
    • Plus: a booklet featuring Jarmusch's 1984 "Some Notes on Stranger Than Paradise," Geoff Andrew and J. Hoberman on Stranger Than Paradise, and Luc Sante on Permanent Vacation


    Stranger Than Paradise
    Although Jim Jarmusch made his directorial debut with Permanent Vacation (1982), Stranger than Paradise (1984) marked his breakthrough as a major American filmmaker. One of the most deadpan comedies ever committed to film, Stranger than Paradise suggests a Buster Keaton film written by Samuel Beckett and Jack Kerouac and directed by Andy Warhol. Willie (John Lurie) is a small-time gambler whose distant cousin Eva (Eszter Balint) is moving to America from Eastern Europe and informs him that she'll need to stay with him for ten days. Willie isn't happy to have Eva around, but after Willie introduces her to the joys of American cigarettes and TV dinners ("You got your meat, you got your potatoes, you got your vegetables, you got your dessert and you don't have to wash the dishes -- this is how we eat in America!"), Eva steals a frozen meal and a pack of smokes from the corner store, and Willie is both surprised and impressed. His buddy Eddie (Richard Edson) happens by, and they hang out with Eva just long enough to develop a fondness for her before she moves on to Ohio, where she'll live with her Aunt Lottie (Cecillia Stark). Months later, Willie and Eddie score $600 in a poker game and decide to visit Eva in Ohio. However, it's the dead of winter, and they have nothing to do except look at the frozen surface of the lake. The three eventually head down to the tacky paradise of Miami, where Willie and Eddie try their luck with the ponies and Eva decides what to do next. Stranger than Paradise is a film that defines the notion, "It's not what you say, but how you say it." Shot in long, static takes, its style is minimalism itself, but the post-beatnik cool of John Lurie, Richard Edson and Eszter Balint somehow betrays the fact that they care about each other, and a loopy charm and subtle but potent humor seeps through the film's stark black-and-white images. Stranger than Paradise began as a short subject which was made possible by German director Wim Wenders, who gave Jarmusch a supply of film stock left over from one of his projects, and it went on to become one of the most influential movies of the 1980s, casting a wide shadow over the new generation of independent American filmmakers to come. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

    Cast & Crew

    • John Lurie
      John Lurie - Willie
    • Eszter Balint
      Eszter Balint - Eva
    • Richard Edson
      Richard Edson - Eddie
    • Image coming soon
      Danny Rosen - Billy
    • Image coming soon
      Rammellzee - Man with Money

    Product images, including color, may differ from actual product appearance.