At once artless and artful, dramatically unfocused yet layered throughout with unmistakable observations about mid-'80s American melancholia, Stranger Than Paradise displays all the strengths and weaknesses of Jarmusch's brand of cinema. While experiencing his stories, the viewer may suspect that, beneath the patina of captivating movie moments, the director has nothing particularly to say about, well, anything, but is simply creating images because he feels like it, and stringing them together with vintage jazz, rock, and world music selections. Just short of expressing any sense of purpose or point of view, at least conventionally speaking, a Jarmusch movie will peter out. The characters do not advance much, though each will have embarked on journeys, and shared moments of wry hilarity. But, spiritually, they remain near or exactly where they began.
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Down by Law became an immediate cult hit partly because of its pokey humor style but also because it starred musicians Tom Waits and John Lurie along side upstart Italian comedian Roberto Benigni - who is so over-the-top he really revs up the film's expressionless tempo.
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