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Film / Stranger Than Paradise

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"You know, it's funny. You come to someplace new, and everything looks just the same."

Stranger Than Paradise is a 1984 film directed by Jim Jarmusch.

Willie (John Lurie) is an aimless young man living in a dingy New York apartment. He also happens to be an immigrant from Hungary whose real first name is "Bela". The now fully Americanized Willie is unpleasantly surprised to learn that his teenaged cousin Eva, arriving from Hungary, will be staying with him for ten days before going on to Cleveland. He accepts her with ill grace, not taking her anywhere or showing her anything, not even bringing her along when he and his similarly aimless loser buddy Eddie (Richard Edson) go to the race track.

Eva leaves for Cleveland and gets a dead-end job at a hot dog stand. After getting caught cheating at poker, Willie and Eddie hurriedly exit New York and go to see Eva in Cleveland. On a whim the three of them go to Florida—but nothing ever changes.

Not to be confused with either the comic series Strangers in Paradise or the video game Stranger of Paradise: Final Fantasy Origin.


  • Adaptation Expansion: Began as a 1982 short film that corresponds to the first part of this movie. When Jarmusch got his hands on a little cash he filmed the second and third acts.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: Willie lives in a particularly grungy part of New York (apparently the Lower East Side) with boarded-up windows, graffiti-splattered buildings, and garbage scattered in the streets. When Eva says she's going out, he warns her to not go more than two blocks south, because it's not safe.
  • Book Ends: The first shot is Eva, newly arrived in America, watching planes take off from the airport. One of the last scenes is a similarly staged shot showing Eddie watching Willie's plane to Budapest take off.
  • Creator Cameo: Jim Jarmusch appears at the hot dog stand, eating a hot dog while wearing a beanie.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Shot on the cheap, with a black and white look that fits the mood of aimlessness and ennui.
  • Deus ex Machina: Eva buys a wide-brimmed hat at the sad little gift shop near their sad little motel. She goes out walking on the beach, only to meet a drug dealer who mistakes her for a courier. The drug dealer hands over a fat envelope stuffed with $100 bills. Eva makes a rapid departure with the money. Moments later the real courier, a similarly-dressed woman in a wide-brimmed hat, shows up.
  • Fixing the Game: One of the ways Willie and Eddie eke out their meager existences is by cheating at poker games. They have to exit one apartment in a hurry after another player figures out their scheme.
  • Funny Foreigner: Cantankerous old Aunt Lotte, who says stuff like "I am the vinner" when she wins at cards, or "Son of a beetch" when Eva leaves with the guys.
  • Leave the Camera Running: The film consists of 67 scenes. Each scene is a single take, without any cuts. In most of the scenes, the camera doesn't move.
  • Minimalism: Focuses almost exclusively on three characters who do and say very little. The film has only a few mundane locations, uses black and white film, and features long periods without any dialogue. The film also has a very slow pace, with a total of 67 shots. In between each shot, Jarmusch inserted black space to further slow down the pace.
  • Plot Hole: So, Willie took his passport with him to Cleveland and Florida for no particular reason? And if he didn't have his passport, how did he board a flight to Budapest?
  • Pretty Fly for a White Guy: Willie is a Hungarian immigrant to the United States who considers himself assimilated into American culture...which he apparently defines as acting like a 1950s beatnik.
  • Real Time: Well, the movie isn't real time. But each scene is a single uninterrupted take, without any cuts or edits, so each scene takes place in real time.
  • Shout-Out: Willie and Eva watch Forbidden Planet on TV.
  • Slice of Life: Nothing really happens in the movie. Willie, Eddie, and Eva hang out in New York. The guys visit Eva in Cleveland. They go to Florida. Willie's stupidity gets him on a plane to Budapest. That's it.
  • Stealing from Thieves: Eva is taking a walk when a drug dealer mistakes her for a courier and gives her an envelope fat with $100 bills. She leaves town immediately.
  • Time Skip: "One Year Later" between Eva's departure to Cleveland and Willie and Eddie going out there to visit. A little Black Comedy, as it feels like it could be ten years or fifty years and Willie and Eddie would be doing the same thing.