directed by Jim Jarmusch
USA / West Germany 1984

Rootless Hungarian emigre Willie (John Lurie), his pal Eddie (Richard Edson), and visiting sixteen-year-old cousin Eva (Eszter Balint) always manage to make the least of any situation, whether aimlessly traversing the drab interiors and environs of New York City, Cleveland, or an anonymous Florida suburb. With its delicate humor and dramatic nonchalance, Jim Jarmusch's one-of-a-kind minimalist masterpiece, Stranger Than Paradise, forever transformed the landscape of American independent cinema.
 

***

I don't recall if it was Stranger than Paradise that ignited my love for the Cinema, or if it was Paris, Texas. I think it was the former. The initial tracking shot of Eszter Balint walking down the street, boombox in hand and blasting Screaming Jay Hawkins - it just made perfect sense to me. I was convinced I had seen the future of Cinema, and that his name was Jim Jarmusch. The next months found me proclaiming the wonders of this Jim on my radio slot. Nobody believed me. And 20 years later, they still don't.

Amongst the funniest movies ever to be put on celluloid, beautifully shot with brilliant construction, this is one immensely engaging film. Not a minute drags on, not a frame is worth skipping. It grabs you by the scruff of your neck, and drags you away on an observers drive through the human soul and the heart of middle america. Be forewarned: the action takes place in the pauses, between the lines, cleverly embedded within a highly satisfying case of three-way anti-communication. Like its kissin' cousin the Haiku, the film lends itself to be completely missed in a blink. The film has its imperfections, to be sure... a bit rough around the edges and slightly anemic - just like an old friend. Still my favorite Jarmusch movie, even after all these years together, warts and all. How many films can you name that make you want to visit Cleveland? I rest my case.

Trond Trondsen of Mastersofcinema.org

Posters

Theatrical Release: July 25th, 1984

Reviews    More Reviews  DVD Reviews

DVD Comparison:

Criterion (2-disc) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. MGM  (USA) - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Kinowelt (Germany) - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Trond Trondsen and Pavel Borodin for the Screen Caps!

(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. MGM (USA) - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Kinowelt (Germany) - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)

DVD Box Covers

   

Distribution

Criterion Collection - Spine # 400

Region 1 - NTSC

MGM Home Entertainment (USA)

Region 1 - NTSC

Kinowelt Home Entertainment (Germany)
Region 2 - PAL
Runtime 1:29:21 1:28:54 1:25:24 (4% PAL speedup)

Video

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 8.93 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 4.46 mb/s
NTSC 704x480 29.97 f/s

1.78:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 8.38 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes

Bitrate:

Criterion

.

Bitrate:

MGM Home Entertainment (USA)

 

Bitrate:

 

Kinowelt Home Entertainment (Germany)

 

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono) English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)

Subtitles English, none French, Spanish, none German, Dutch, French, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Criterion

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen letterboxed - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Permanent Vacation (1980, 75 minutes), Jarmusch's first full-length feature, presented in a new, restored high-definition digital transfer supervised by the director
• Kino '84: Jim Jarmusch: a 1984 German television program featuring interviews with cast and crew from Stranger Than Paradise and Permanent Vacation
• Some Days in January, 1984, a behind-the-scenes Super-8 film by Tom Jarmusch
• Location scouting photos
• U.S. and Japanese trailers
• 46-page Liner notes booklet featuring Jarmusch's 1984 "Some Notes on Stranger Than Paradise," Geoff Andrew and J. Hoberman on Stranger Than Paradise, and Luc Sante on Permanent Vacation

DVD Release Date: September 4th, 2007
Keep Case

Chapters 18

Release Information:
Studio: MGM Home Entertainment (USA)

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen letterboxed - 1.85:1

Edition Details:
• Behind The Scenes:
'Stranger Than Paradise in Cleveland'
(Super 8 footage by Tom Jarmusch, 7:30)

DVD Release Date: September 5, 2000
Keep Case

Chapters 32

Release Information:
Studio: Kinowelt Home Entertainment (Germany)

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen letterboxed - 1.78:1

Edition Details:
• Regions 2 & 8
• Jim Jarmusch's Filmography
• Behind The Scenes:
'Stranger Than Paradise in Cleveland'
(Super 8 film by Tom Jarmusch, 14:40)
• Trailers for 'Mystery Train', 'Down by Law', 'Stranger Than Paradise', and 'Night on Earth'

DVD Release Date: September 23, 2003
Keep Case

Chapters 24

 

Comments:
ADDITION: Criterion - Aug 07': Hard to pick flaw with the Criterion as the cover has a sticker 'New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Jim Jarmusch'. It appears similar to the Kinowelt in terms of smoothness and clarity. The MGM may have darker blacks but is riddled with artifacts that initially appeared as film grain (but aren't) and appear more like dirt. The MGM also has some edge enhancement. Expectantly the Criterion is anamorphic, progressive and dual-layered. It also offers optional English subtitles but the first disc (feature film) has no commentary and is not shared with any supplements.

There is a second disc with Jarmusch's first full-length feature, entitled, Permanent Vacation made in 1980 - it runs 75 minutes long and is also a 'restored high-definition digital transfer supervised by the director'. It has 11 chapter stops and offers optional English subtitles. Next is Martina Muller's documentary 'Kino '84: Jim Jarmusch': a 1984 produced by West German television (WDR) that features interviews with the cast and crew from Stranger Than Paradise and Permanent Vacation including actor Chris Parker, cinematographer Tom DiCillo, producer Sara Driver and actors John Lurie, Eszter Balint and Richard Edson. There is also a 15 minute silent film 'Some Days in January, 1984, a behind-the-scenes Super-8 film by Tom Jarmusch' (Jim's brother). Location scouting photos is a click thru slide show of photographs of the locales used in the film and finally (digitally) there are the US and Japanese trailers. There is a very nice 46-page liner notes booklet featuring Jarmusch's 1984 "Some Notes on Stranger Than Paradise," Geoff Andrew and J. Hoberman on Stranger Than Paradise, and Luc Sante on Permanent Vacation.

Memorable film that evokes Truffaut and Rohmer - paced work that impacts as a whole not as highlighted segments like so much of Hollywood 'flix' nowadays. The short take - people on a searching, human voyage. This DVD is a must for Jarmusch and cinema fans.

***

Gary W. Tooze

 

The MGM disc is grainier than the Kinowelt disc, as seen in the single-frame stills below. When projected at 30 frames per second, the graininess is however much less noticeable (as the signal-to-noise ratio improves by a factor of square root of 6), and no worse than what I recall from seeing in the theatre, multiple times. The Kinowelt transfer is very smooth and nice, but perhaps a tad on the blurry side. See for example the shot through the windshield: the pattern on Eva's scarf, and the grill on the dashboard appear better defined on the MGM disc. The MGM is exhibiting slight edge enhancement. It has clearly been contrast enhanced by histogram equalization - but I feel that the resulting stark contrast is quite in keeping with the intended Robert Frank look. The MGM image is also slightly cropped on top and bottom and just a little bit on the left.

The audio on the MGM disc is atrocious. There are periodic undulations superimposed on the background thermal (white) noise. Running a relatively quiet portion of the film's audio track through a Fast Fourier Transform reveals that all is not well. See the spectral density graph below, where we have the frequency [Hz] along the vertical axis, and time [s] starting at 07:25 min into the film along the horizontal axis. The top shows the entire 80-second audio clip. The three bursts towards the end is the phone ringing three times, each time followed by Eva telling Willy that the phone is ringing. At 22 s we see the tires screeching outside. The other well-defined black streaks are environmental noises generated by Eva herself. The bottom shows the first (selected) portion in close-up. I call your attention to two artifacts: the dropout in the frequency spectrum (seen as a white line that lasts for the duration of the clip) contributing to the rather "hollow" sound, and a low frequency periodic noise, which is very audible and distracting, manifesting itself as a spectral peak at 1 Hz and (as it broadens the spectral content of the signal) as subtle periodic excursions as indicated. To the viewer this sounds like a constant "whoosh-whoosh-whoosh" at a 1-second periodicity. This is heard during large portions of the first half of the film. Clearly not acceptable.


The Kinowelt disc includes the entire film "January 1984 - STRANGER THAN PARADISE in Cleveland, A Silent Super 8 Film, shot and edited by Tom Jarmusch" (duration: 14:40). MGM has included a butchered version of the film. They call it "Selected Super 8 footage shot by Tom Jarmusch" (duration: 7:30), and the most interesting sequences (from a cineaste's point of view) are missing. It boggles the mind! It's not as if the bitrate used by MGM on the main feature caused them to run out of space. Even if it did, most would have the decency to not include a film at all, rather than presenting the viewer with a bastardized version!? But MGM continues to exhibit an uncanny ability to come up with new and exciting ways to provoke us.

 - Trond Trondsen of Mastersofcinema.org



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Criterion

 

 

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(MGM Home Entertainment (USA) - Region 1 - NTSC - LEFT vs. Kinowelt Home Entertainment (Germany) - Region 2 - PAL - RIGHT)


 


 

Subtitle Sample from Criterion

 

Screen Captures

(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. MGM (USA) - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Kinowelt (Germany) - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)


 

 


(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. MGM (USA) - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Kinowelt (Germany) - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


 

(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. MGM (USA) - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Kinowelt (Germany) - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 

 


(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. MGM (USA) - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Kinowelt (Germany) - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. MGM (USA) - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Kinowelt (Germany) - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


(Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC TOP vs. MGM (USA) - Region 1 - NTSC - MIDDLE vs. Kinowelt (Germany) - Region 2 - PAL - BOTTOM)

 

 


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Distribution

Criterion Collection - Spine # 400

Region 1 - NTSC

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Region 1 - NTSC

Kinowelt Home Entertainment (Germany)
Region 2 - PAL



 

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