Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Indie Classic

Twenty plus years ago, 1984 to be exact, budding young filmmaker Jim Jarmush delivered Stranger Than Paradise (Criterion, 89 minutes, $39.95) to an unsuspecting indie-film public, and immediately carved a spot out for himself as the most effortlessly hip American director since Cassavetes with this downbeat, nonchalant exercise in laconicism, a deep American dish served up on a European platter. A story of three drifting misfits (John Lurie, Eszter Balint, and Richard Edson, the ultimate hipster doofus) that barely starts and doesn’t really end, a film made up of 67 single takes broken up by the occasional black screen, yet sublimely modulated and strangely amusing, it’s a captivating paean to nothingness, also the most ironic road movie evuh up until the director’s own 2005 Broken Flowers. As much as Jarmusch’s singular vision may be a formal construct, mere arty minimalism, his ability to draw deeply from his enigmatic and distinctly un-Hollywood characters helps breathes life into his find-me-a-pulse cinematic rhythms, and Stranger may still stand as his finest effort. The new two-disc set includes his first little-scene feature Permanent Vacation, and includes no actual commentary by the filmmaker himself, which might arguably be for the better.

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