Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Stranger Than Paradise

I always start with characters rather than with a plot, which many critics would say is very obvious from the lack of plot in my films - although I think they do have plots - but the plot is not of primary importance to me, the characters are.
- Jim Jarmusch

DAN - This black and white film follows two friends and one girl, a relative from Hungary. The characters spend the first portion of the film mingling in New York City, and they later take a road trip to Cleveland and Florida in search of some adventure. The film showcases their experiences while on the trip and how they are affected by living in unfamiliar places. Stranger Than Paradise is a decent film despite its slow pace, but it is not Jarmusch’s best.

Though I enjoyed this film, it is not difficult to notice its flaws. The actors seem to be inexperienced, and their performances are not entirely convincing (John Lurie plays a similarly monotone character in Down By Law, another Jarmusch film). Stranger Than Paradise features long takes with little action. Even the transitions are slow, making the whole film seem longer and less eventful.

Yet with all of these distractions, the overall story is interesting, and it is told in an honest manner. One thing that remains consistent in Jarmusch’s films is the realism. He doesn’t flood his stories with intense, exciting, or comedic moments, like so many directors do these days. Instead, he lets the story occur naturally. He includes scenes in which characters don’t say or do much, which I recognize as being true to life.

The naturalism of Stranger Than Paradise causes the momentum to drag throughout much of the film, but it is commendable. I think highly of Jarmusch and his philosophy on film-making, even though he may not be consistently entertaining. He creates films that are pleasing to himself (and often to me, as well), and I respect that.