Stranger than Paradise
Stranger than Paradise: With Permanent Vacation little seen outside of the downtown New York film scene, Jarmusch's 1984 feature Stranger than Paradise is often considered his proper debut, winning, even, the Cannes Film Festival's Camera d'Or, given to the best first-time film. The film began as a half-hour short, shot with the film stock left over from the shooting of Wim Wenders' feature The State of Things. During filming, Jarmusch came up with the idea of two additional chapters, and after some more fundraising he finished what is a seminal film in the American Independent movement. Comprised of 67 single-shot scenes separated by moments of black leader, the film tells the story of Willie, a Hungarian émigré played by John Lurie and his NYC pal Eddie, played by drummer and actor Richard Edson, whose uneventful lives are disrupted when Willie's young cousin Eva (the Squat Theater's Eszter Balint) visits on her way to Cleveland. The best description of the movie comes from the director himself, who said, "When shooting the film, someone outside the production asked me what kind of film we were making. I wanted to tell them that it was a "semi-neorealist black comedy in the style of an imaginary Eastern European film director obsessed with Ozu and familiar with the 1950s American television show The Honeymooners." Village Voice critic J. Hoberman also picked up on the film's minimalist take on sketch comedy, calling it "a Kabuki sitcom" and "an amalgram of Damon Runyon and Piet Mondrian that's a triumph of low-budget stylization."