Criterion Collection Pick of the Week : Stranger Than Paradise

Stranger than Paradise (1984)

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Country: USA

Running Time: 1 hr. 29 min.

At Sarah Lawrence, we are confronted with many questions, but none of them seem to ring louder than “What do you plan on doing with your life?”  Between last week’s Study Abroad Fair and this week’s Internship and Volunteer Fair, I’ve come across that very question.  I want to have a summer internship, but I also want to study abroad during the summer in England (so I can stay in the know as a constant student government official).  My original goal was to study abroad this summer, but the Summer Olympics have put that dream on hold.  Now I question if I’ll still want to do so in 2013.

Also, I plan on going to the competitive filmmaking business.  Even with my strong interests in independent filmmaking in? Hollywood, it’s still tough to break through.  My plan is to graduate from SLC and then attend a graduate program that focuses on the screenwriting craft.  But I still have the “What do you plan on doing in your life?” question ringing in my head.

So for those looking for answers to those questions in the most indirect way, check out Jarmusch’s seminal film Stranger Than Paradise that changed the landscape of American independent cinema.

In this film, Eva has emigrated from Hungary looking for a better life with her aunt in Cleveland.  Before she can get there, she needs to stay over with her cousin, Willie, a Hungarian emigrant who desperately wants to be considered an American.  Tension flares.  Disagreements ensue.  And yet, they have a small respect for each other.  Even Willie’s friend, Eddie, seems to like Eva’s input.

The film is divided into three parts: The Modern World, One Year Later, and Paradise, as well as taking place in three locations: New York City, Cleveland, and Florida.  What originally was intended as just a short film (The Modern World) expanded after praise for the original cut came from Cannes and Sundance film festivals.  The film is shot in stark black and white with long takes at a long shot distance with sparse camera movement and non-digetic music.  [Each cut is followed by an immediate cut to black and then back to the next scene.  This may take some time to get used to if you plan on watching the online version.  (I watched it on Hulu Plus, and it made me think twice if the buffer was resetting itself or it was changing scenes.)

Throughout the film, we see Eva and Willie struggle with their Hungarian roots while living in America.  They come face-to-face with their demons and culture shock.  As SLC students, we are so much like Eva and Willie: young, lost, and often stubborn— and yet, we all are learning how to become responsible citizens of the globe (unless your plans are different otherwise).

For the hipster who needs a little direction in their SLC career, this is the film for you.


Image Credit: Google Images

Screenwriter. Humanities scholar. Cinephile. Samantha hails from Richmond, Virginia. She hates Hollywood synergy and people that get on her nerves. When she's not busy writing her next masterpiece or watching movies on Netflix and Hulu Plus, she serves on Student Senate, Student Life, SSSF, and SLAC where she tries to make "home" a better place for other students. Samantha would also like for people to understand that she loves Jean-Luc Godard films, even though he's anti-semitic and she's a Jew.

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