Stranger Than Paradise on DVD.

Deleted scenes, commentary, and more.
Nov. 11 2009 7:11 AM

The Cineaste of Cool

How Jim Jarmusch's hipness distracts from his greatness.

(Continued from Page 1)

Numerous European directors proudly claim Jarmusch as a major influence—among them Aki Kaurismaki, Michael Haneke, and Claire Denis—but there are few American directors willing to risk the ponderous silences and extended still images that mark Jarmusch's best work. Kelly Reichardt's recent Old Joy is a rare example; like Stranger Than Paradise, it is a film about friendship and loneliness in which intermittent conversation provides a distraction from the deeper conflicts between the two main characters.


So it's all the more disappointing that Jarmusch, as his career has progressed, has relied less on visual melodies and more on his left hand. The trend began with Night on Earth, which Criterion has also just released, a series of five conversations between garrulous taxicab drivers and their fares in five different cities. Most of the 10 conversations that form Coffee and Cigarettes, meanwhile, are less dialogues than dueling monologues, in which two characters talk past each other. Jarmusch's chatter is funny, jangly, and sometimes poetic, but it's a poor substitute for the visual nuances of Stranger Than Paradise. Jarmusch's films still contain strikingly memorable images, and still have their odd charm. But in his more recent work, his camera has tended to reveal far more about the world in which the film is set—a coffee shop, an urban ghetto, the American West—than about the characters themselves.

This is not to say that Jarmusch has completely lost his touch. There are many quietly evocative moments in his most recent film, Broken Flowers (2005), a delicate, moving portrait of love and aging. In one particularly resonant scene, we see Don Johnston (Bill Murray) sitting with a glass of champagne on his couch early in the morning. Don is about to leave on a trip to visit four ex-girlfriends, and the still image captures the difficult combination of loneliness, anxiety, and anticipation that have rendered him virtually catatonic.

Not a word is spoken, but everything is said.



Scalia’s Liberal Streak

The conservative justice’s most brilliant—and surprisingly progressive—moments on the bench.

Colorado Is Ground Zero for the Fight Over Female Voters

There’s a Way to Keep Ex-Cons Out of Prison That Pays for Itself. Why Don’t More States Use It?

The NFL Explains How It Sees “the Role of the Female”

The Music Industry Is Ignoring Some of the Best Black Women Singing R&B


Theo’s Joint and Vanessa’s Whiskey

No sitcom did the “Very Special Episode” as well as The Cosby Show.


The Other Huxtable Effect

Thirty years ago, The Cosby Show gave us one of TV’s great feminists.

Cliff Huxtable Explains the World: Five Lessons From TV’s Greatest Dad

Why Television Needs a New Cosby Show Right Now

  News & Politics
Sept. 18 2014 8:20 PM A Clever Attempt at Explaining Away a Vote Against the Farm Bill
Sept. 18 2014 6:02 PM A Chinese Company Just Announced the Biggest IPO in U.S. History
The Slate Quiz
Sept. 18 2014 11:44 PM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Double X
Sept. 18 2014 8:07 PM Crying Rape False rape accusations exist, and they are a serious problem.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 18 2014 1:23 PM “It’s Not Every Day That You Can Beat the World Champion” An exclusive interview with chess grandmaster Fabiano Caruana.
Brow Beat
Sept. 18 2014 4:33 PM The Top 5 Dadsplaining Moments From The Cosby Show
Future Tense
Sept. 18 2014 6:48 PM By 2100 the World's Population Could Be 11 Billion
  Health & Science
Sept. 18 2014 3:35 PM Do People Still Die of Rabies? And how do you know if an animal is rabid?
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.