Wednesday, November 19, 2008

ROGUE ROAD MOVIE REVIEW: "Stranger Than Paradise" (1984) Jim Jarmusch

Plot: two card sharks and a Hungarian immigrant set off for Florida after a nice score.

How closely tied are the characters to the road? a third of the film is on the road and the rest takes place in transitory locations: a one room tenement in the Bronx, a relative's home in industrial Cleveland and a roadside motel in Florida. 

Is the film vehicular or character-based? character-based. But it is an anomaly of a road film in that the characters are the focus but they do not undergo any miraculous transformation. 

How painfully hip and articulate are the characters?
They are hip without inducing a cringe. The film was created at the very beginning of the indie film movement when self-styled characters were still fresh. No one quotes a famous philosopher.

Number of desolate mythological figures: only one. Without much of a narrative push, an ending involving a drug dealing keymaster is tacked on to close off an otherwise episodic film.    

How much embarrassing existential content? Thankfully, none at all. The characters are each facing psycho-social paralysis but there is no magical cure for their stases.

Can the word quirky in any way be associated with this film? Yes, but unfairly. It is an honestly unconventional film versus the contrived post-1990-indy-Wes Anderson tripe so common now. 

Does anyone play the harmonica? No, but one character ironically plays a cassette recording of Screamin' Jay Hawkings' I Put a Spell on You whenever it is time to consider the freedom of the road. 

Is it any good? Stranger Than Paradise is an unassuming masterpiece; sometimes tragic, sometimes humorous, at its core is an alternative way of thinking about travel. It offers relief from the unrealistic expectations of travel ingrained by traditional narratives of heroism.

1 comment:

Thomas Austraila said...

i think i will revisit this film, thanks