A self-styled New York hipster is paid a surprise visit by his younger cousin from Budapest. From initial hostility and indifference a small degree of affection grows between the two. Along...
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Two innocent people are arrested. An interesting third person, with broken English, joins them in their cell. On his idea, they decide to escape from the prison. Their journey is the rest of the movie.
As the extremely withdrawn Don Johnston is dumped by his latest woman, he receives an anonymous letter from a former lover informing him that he has a son who may be looking for him. A freelance sleuth neighbor moves Don to embark on a cross-country search for his old flames in search of answers.
This shortcut repeats the structure of Coffee and Cigarettes. This time, Iggy Pop and Tom Waits meet in a bar. But, again, we don't know why they agreed to do that in the first place, ... See full summary »
In a vignette called "Strange to meet you," Roberto sits at a small table in a coffee bar. Five cups of coffee and two ashtrays are in front of him; he drinks and smokes. Steven joins him. ... See full summary »
A self-styled New York hipster is paid a surprise visit by his younger cousin from Budapest. From initial hostility and indifference a small degree of affection grows between the two. Along with a friend, they eventually end up visiting their aunt in the wastelands of Cleveland and then proceed to Florida where they lose all their money gambling before unwittingly gaining a fortune. Written by
J.Arnold Free <email@example.com> and Brian McInnis
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the 400 movies nominated for the Top 100 Greatest American Movies. See more »
In the last cut, shot inside the vehicle on the way to Cleveland, camera on Willie, the vehicle they are riding in is no longer the 1965 Dodge Coronet, but a Ford Econoline van. See more »
[speaks indistinctly in Hungarian]
Oh, hello, Aunt Lotte.
[replies indistinctly in Hungarian throughout conversation]
Don't speak to me in Hungarian, please. No, I haven't heard from him, not for ten years. Yeah, I got your letter. Speak English, please! Yeah, my little cousin Eva. Yeah, I know, she's come - coming here and she's gonna stay overnight, when's she coming? Today? Straight from Budapest today? Ah, no. No, I never agreed to that. I can't possibly babysit for her for...
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I just finished watching Stranger Than Paradise on DVD - the first time I'd seen it since its year of release. I'd always recalled the film with fondness, although I could never remember why I liked it. Several years after seeing the movie I came across the John Lurie soundtrack and bought it without stopping to listen, and been slightly taken aback by it. The haunting pieces were more emotionally esoteric than I expected, and it took some time for the album to grow on me.
Seeing the movie again, I understand why. The only piece of popular music in the film is Screamin' Jay Hawkin's "I Put a Spell on You" and, although I had forgotten that it was there, I guess that I had expected the soundtrack to be more like those of mainstream movies and have songs and such-like. I think that Lurie's music is perfect in situ and, as I've said, the soundtrack has also grown on me as standalone pieces.
The movie itself is a masterpiece. The black and white images present a starkness and a clarity that heightens the alienation of self in a land that was supposed to be the new hope for immigrants from a decaying old world. Instead we see Eva walking through a deserted ghost world of New York where the graffiti says "Yankee go home". America is only a dream, a collective vision of a better world; paradise somewhere on earth.
As Willie and Eddie journey west after winning some money, we see that the supposedly beautiful city of Cleveland is cold and desolate with a frozen lake. The further trip to Florida ends in the middle of nowhere next to a bleak and windswept ocean. Paradise is still somewhere out of reach. I think that's why the movie appeals to me. It shows that the America of popular mythology - the home of the brave, land of the free, protector of the downtrodden, guardian of democracy in the free world - is merely a construct. Too many people these days believe in the child's fantasy of America being some paradise that Iraq and Afghanistan should emulate. Jarmusch reminds us that it is people who give meaning to a symbol, not the other way around. He allows for the ability of people to make their own meanings and evolve beyond the stagnation of popular culture.
At a time I originally saw this movie I had recently left home and got my first job, moving from the country to the city, and maybe to some extent I identified with Eva - moving from Budapest to America. It was also my first taste of grownup film, if I recall correctly, and confirmed me with a lifelong fascination with the cinema. I have a lot to thank Jim Jarmusch for.
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