BluRay/DVD Reviews

STRANGER THAN PARADISE

By • Sep 4th, 2007 •

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I went through Russian schooling, which required first, upon passing judgment about a certain film or play, to define what that work was about. And this seemingly simple task I found to be most bewildering when applied to the majority of films produced by US studios. Of course, one doesn’t anticipate being smitten by the “bouquet” while chewing gum. But once you’re trained to look for “hidden messages,” neither can you can’t help it.

Watching STRANGER THAN PARADISE I experienced the sentimental joy of a homesick stranger browsing through the pages of a picture album featuring a place where they belong. I knew what the film was about, I felt it with all my senses, and it gave me the pleasure of recognition (and gourmet surprise).

It’s about isolation, the perpetual aloofness of the misfit, the un-requited love that rots away in unoccupied vessels of humanity – so familiar, so palpable, so haunting.

These films are certainly for connoisseurs, cinephiles and lovers of rhymed lyrics. Or for the audiences whose life experience echoes with that of Jarmusch’s characters. Or – well, actually I am not sure about the last statement given the total admiration and popularity of cinematic extravaganzas about the not-so-common lives of the rich, the dangerous, the mean and vicious, the treacherous and traitorous, the mighty and the daring. But the first category of viewers might indeed have a feast: this double-disc featuring the first films of renowned director Jim Jarmusch is a tribute to the whole era of pioneering independents, an appreciation of the special poetry of New York low life in the late 70s – early 80s. It also contains a 1984 German TV program showing interviews with the cast and crew of STRANGER THAN PARADISE, and a booklet that has Jarmusch’s notes on his film, as well as beautifully written articles by Geoff Andrew, J. Hoberman and Luc Sante, readings which give as much pleasure as watching the films. My time with this special edition was quite rewarding. And definitely stranger than paradise.

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