Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Stranger Than Paradise

Jim Jarmusch's "Stranger Than Paradise" is the true independent film, not some sort of Fox Searchlight bull. It's cheaply made, adeptly cast, and it clocks in at 89 minutes in length. Yet, it manages to be very funny, very beautiful (in crisp B & W), and very well acted. John Lurie of "Fishing With John" and "Down by Law" plays Willie, a Hungarian slacker living in New York who gets by eating TV dinners and hanging out with his best friend Eddie (Richard Edson), one of those people who baits you by saying he's been somewhere and the truth is quite obvious that he's been putting you on. Willie receives a call from Aunt Lotte (Cecilia Stark) who is sending Eva (Eszter Balint), a brash lady with a penchant for Screamin' Jay Hawkins who wouldn't seem out of place in, say, Jarmusch's "Mystery Train." Willie and Eva don't hit it off immediately, but when they do, thus begins the indie road trip film of the 80's. It's a comical odyssey, with many shots mounted on the front of the car, indie style. But it's not just a quirky indie. In fact, it manages to avoid that completely. Although there is quite a bit of attention on detail, it's not one of those cute little films that marketers call "low-budget." If there was ever a film to bear that title, it would probably be this one. Another thing is how it's very Jarmuschian without being too annoying. There were moments in his "Train" that I liked (such as Hawkins' screamin' hilarious cameo), but all-in-all, it just isolated the slightly annoying bits that I don't find particularly amazing. Here, he finds a perfect pitch with zany, offbeat writing that provides a whimsical tone for a classic independent film to be treasured long after when the Hoovers have gone back to Albuquerque. A-

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