Stranger Than Paradise (1983)

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Released 21-Sep-2005

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Stranger Than Paradise In Cleveland (No Audio)
Trailer-Piracy Ad, Duel At Ichijoji Temple, Happy Together
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1983
Running Time 85:28
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (54:48) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Jim Jarmusch
Studio
Distributor
Fortissimo Films
Madman Entertainment
Starring John Lurie
Eszter Balint
Richard Edson
Cecillia Stark
Danny Rosen
Rammellzee
Tom DiCillo
Richard Boes
Rockets Redglare
Harvey Perr
Brian J. Burchill
Sara Driver
Paul Sloane
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music John Lurie


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    "You know, it's funny. You come to some place new and everything looks the same." Eddie

    After his first feature, Permanent Vacation, gained critical attention, Jim Jarmusch's 1984 follow-up, Stranger Than Paradise, marked him as the new indie film darling, making a splash at Sundance and winning the Camera d'Or at Cannes. An expansion of an earlier 30 minute film, Stranger Than Paradise explores the mundane aspects of the lives of two New Yorkers, Willie (John Lurie) and Eddie (Richard Edson). Willie's Hungarian cousin Eva (Eszter Balint) comes to stay on her way to Ohio and when she leaves, Eddie and Willie decide to take a road trip to Ohio, pick up Eva and make their way to Florida. Ultimately, the trip proves a disappointment - things are the same wherever you go - and Eva decides to slip away and return to Europe.

    Shot in gritty 16mm black and white, Jarmusch has us watch his characters sitting silently, miscommunicating or getting bored. Each shot is a single long take, filmed by a barely moving camera (Ozu has been suggested as an influence and scores a subtle reference in the script), followed by a fade to black. The overall effect is one of quiet stillness alternating with aimless motion. To Jarmusch's credit, though, the film never drags and the deliberately dull moments, rather than yawn-inducing, are often touching and the film's thoughtful stillness (an atmosphere recaptured perfectly in Jarmusch's recent Broken Flowers) is captivating rather than alienating. The actors are universally excellent, their interaction natural and realistic. Lurie deserves particular mention: if only he would work in front of the camera more often. Jarmusch has a knack for picking the perfect actor to match his characters. And the fact that Lurie also happened to produce an excellent score for the film is a big bonus.

    Having only seen a few minutes of Ghost Dog, Stranger Than Paradise was my first real experience with Jarmusch. I found myself drawn in from the opening scenes and completely convinced of Jarmusch's ability. The film's only weak point is an unsatisfying and unnecessary use of deus ex machina to bring the film to an end: otherwise it's perfect. I wish I had discovered his work earlier, but count me in as Jim Jarmusch's latest convert.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Overall this is a very good video transfer although falling short in several areas. The video issues in Stranger Than Paradise are very similar those exhibited by Madman's release of Jarmusch's Night On Earth. A pattern perhaps? The film is presented at a ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced, altering the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Not a lot of information lost, but still, the original framing would be preferred.

    The film itself is very grainy and consequently a little soft on detail and sharpness. Jarmusch has no pretensions about his film's low budget status, and lets the "limitations" of 16mm film work to his advantage, giving the film a kind of down-to-earth visual realism. Grey scale is nice and blacks are deep. Between 12:37 and 14:45, what I can only describe as flashes of light appear down the right side of the frame, intruding into the picture. I am fairly sure that this is Willie's shaving mirror catching the sun, but I could be proven wrong.

    Just like Night On Earth, Stranger Than Paradise exhibits several instances of digital tape dropout (19:56, 23:24, 59:49, 68:03, and the list continues). The artefact is only on screen very briefly, but is irritating, especially as it appears in a black and white film. Faces tend toward posterization a little. Despite the heavy grain, pixelization is kept under control. Aliasing is visible between 4:22 and 4:49 on garage roller doors. The credits and titles wobble just a little. Minor black and white specks are visible in every shot.

    For curiosity's sake, the boom mike and camera are clearly visible in windows and mirrors at 42:52 and 59:47.

    No subtitles are included. The film is divided into seventeen chapters and the layer change occurs at 54:48 in a fade to black.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Audio for Stranger Than Paradise was recorded for the most part on location, and the Dolby Digital 2.0 mono track reflects the limitations of its source.

    A little hiss and crackle can be heard in the audio, and the track obviously has a limited dynamic range. Audio sync is mostly accurate but seems just a little out at the start of the "Paradise" segment.

    Star John Lurie also wrote the excellent score. Performed by the Paradise Quartet, and giving focus to the cello, the score is very mellow, capturing Willie and Eddie's aimless movement very effectively. Screaming Jay Hawkins' excellent "I Put a Spell On You" also features.

    There is no surround or subwoofer presence in this mono track.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio

Featurette-Behind The Scenes

    Close to 15 minutes of silent Super 8 footage shot by Jim's brother Tom Jarmusch that stands on its own as an interesting piece of film-making. A solid extra that, despite being silent, is leaps and bounds ahead of the usual making-of tripe we get lumped with.

Trailers

    Trailers for two films, but none for Stranger Than Paradise.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The MGM Region 1 release, according to reviews I have read, appears to have problematic audio. It includes an edited version of Tom Jarmusch's film (cut to half its original length).

    The German Region 2 release from Kinowelt appears to have better video and audio than the Region 1 and includes the short film in full, along with a Jarmusch filmography and trailers for several of his films. It is presented at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, 16x9 enhanced. I wouldn't be surprised if our release is from the same source.

    Regions 2 and 4 are of better quality than the Region 1, although both have an incorrect film ratio. I haven't found any mention of digital tape dropout on the Kinowelt, so would place Region 2 above ours.

Summary

    A brilliant early Jarmusch film and an absolute must see.

    The video is problematic but serviceable.

    The audio is good.

    The single extra feature is very good, but a little more would not have gone astray.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Atkinson (read my bio)
Monday, February 13, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-S336, using Component output
DisplayLG Flatron Widescreen RT-28FZ85RX. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V357
SpeakersDB Dynamics Belmont Series: Fronts: B50F, Centre: B50C, Rears: B50S, Sub: SW8BR

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