Stranger than Paradise

Director: Jim Jarmusch
Screenwriters: Jim Jarmusch

Institute History


Jim Jarmusch's low-key, ultra-laid-back first feature, Stranger Than Paradise, hit the Sundance Film Festival in 1985 in company with a bumper crop of films from American independent stalwarts: the Coen brothers, John Sayles, and Victor Nunez. But this film could never get lost in the shuffle.

Paradise's unique style is perfectly wedded to its story line: characters wander aimlessly in and out of consciously disconnected shots the way they drift through their lives, desperately hoping something significant will happen. Willie lives in a tiny apartment in New York City, spending most of his time playing poker and watching TV. When his cousin Eva arrives unexpectedly from Hungary, he's less than delirious about having her around, but after she leaves to join Aunt Lottie, Willie and his friend Eddie follow her to Cleveland. Cleveland is cold and bleak, so the three take off for Florida, American "paradise," but as Eddie says, "You come to someplace new, and everything looks just the same."

Jarmusch claims the film was inspired by Screaming Jay Hawkins's "I Put a Spell on You," which becomes Eva's favorite song. Paradise concocts its own spell out of stark black and white cinematography, surrealistically unpopulated landscapes, and absolutely deadpan performances.

Stranger Than Paradise won the Camera d'Or at Cannes for best first feature and a Special Jury Prize at Sundance. The Academy Film Archive has struck a new print especially for this screening to celebrate the film's twentieth birthday.

— Barbara Bannon

Screening Details

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