The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Why in hell are you going to Budapest?

The biggest, baddest, and perhaps the best Jim Jarmusch film is his 1984 production of Stranger Than Paradise, a black-and-white montage of American life with only sixty-seven total shots. It is an important film. In 2002, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. In a sense, it marked a high water mark for Jarmusch who has struggled to top it ever since.

Like most of Jarmusch’s films, the plot is minimal. A young Hungarian woman (Eszter Balint) flies to New York and stays for a few days with her cousin (John Lurie) before moving on the Cleveland to stay with her aunt. On a whim, the cousin and his buddy drive to Cleveland, hang out for a few days, and then drive with the young woman to Florida, where they lose their money at the dog races. Stranger Than Paradise is a slice of life with no sex, lots of inane conversation, and gorgeous shots of the most dismal spots in New York City, Cleveland, Florida, and the freeways in between. In other words, life at its most mundane.

Jarmusch laughs at his characters all the way through the film. He seems to be saying, “You guys think you’re so hip, when you’re actually lost and clueless.” He saves his biggest joke for the end, when the cousin mistakenly flies to Budapest thinking he’s following the young woman.