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Stranger Than Paradise: Looking back on 1984

by Dzimas
Stranger Than Paradise: Looking back on 1984 by Dzimas
1984 was a turning point for me in the way of films. I fondly remember watching Stranger Than Paradise at a Back Bay movie house in Boston. At the time I wondered what the hell was going on, but as I watched I was drawn in deeper to Jim Jarmusch’s laconic black and white world, and I was hooked. There were movies that made a deeper impression on me, but at the time no other that showed me the potential in film making. Then came Jonathon Demme’s Stop Making Sense. I was a big Talking Heads fan and this concert movie was the next best thing to being there. This film literally rocked the house. As far as pure storytelling goes, it is… Read more

1984 was a turning point for me in the way of films. I fondly remember watching Stranger Than Paradise at a Back Bay movie house in Boston. At the time I wondered what the hell was going on, but as I watched I was drawn in deeper to Jim Jarmusch’s laconic black and white world, and I was hooked. There were movies that made a deeper impression on me, but at the time no other that showed me the potential in film making.

Then came Jonathon Demme’s Stop Making Sense. I was a big Talking Heads fan and this concert movie was the next best thing to being there. This film literally rocked the house.

As far as pure storytelling goes, it is hard to top Broadway Danny Rose. Woody Allen frames his wobegone talent agent, Danny Rose, in a series of reminisces around a table at the Carnegie diner, where Danny had the highest honor of having a sandwich named after him. Nick Apollo Forte is fantastic as the resurgent Lou Canova, and Mia Farrow is virtually unrecognizable as his girlfriend Tina.

Louis Malle came out with Crackers in 1984, but it was Atlantic City from a few years before that I really liked. Burt Lancaster was enjoying a nice comeback to the movie screen and I thought he was great as the old bookie looking for one last score.

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai was also a lot of fun. Peter Weller as the man who could travel through rock and his motley assortment of fellow adventurers who found themselves battling Red Lectroids from Planet 10.

Local Hero had come out the year before, but my first introduction to it was on video. Loved the way Bill Forsyth weaved this story about a corporate real estate agent who succumbs to the charm of a North Scottish town. I didn’t catch Comfort and Joy until much later.

Then there was John Sayles’ science fiction/social parable The Brother From Another Planet, which for some reason hasn’t made it onto Sayles’ auteur page.

Paris, Texas really hit me with the emotional weight it carried. I hadn’t seen anything quite like it at the time. Introduced me not only to Wenders but also to Sam Shepard. I would become a big fan of his plays, in particular True West.

I have to say I was a bit disappointed with Dune, being such a big fan of Frank Herbert’s novel. But, it got me interested in David Lynch, and I wasn’t disappointed with Blue Velvet when it came out two years later.

Not that I was a churchgoer, but I liked Mass Appeal. I thought Jack Lemmon was great as the cynical priest telling his flock what they wanted to hear until a young idealistic priest forced him to look deeper into himself.

The movie that made the biggest impact on me that year was El Norte, which opened up my eyes to the issue of immigration.

Another eye-opener was The Killing Fields with Haing S. Ngor turning in a remarkable performance as Sidney Schanberg’s translator. A few years later, the late great Spalding Gray offered a wonderful telling of his time in Indochina, and the small role he played in The Killing Fields in his personal monologue Swimming to Cambodia.

Norman Jewison’s A Soldier’s Story doesn’t seem to get the attention it deserves. I thought it was a great movie, with standout performances and a gut wrenching final twist.

I was blown away by Sergio Leone’s gangland epic, Once Upon a Time in America, with its all-star cast and stunning cinematography.

And, there was Amadeus. Hard to imagine Tom Hulce as Mozart but under Milos Forman’s direction it seemed to work. Of course, the star of the movie was F. Murray Abraham as the treacherous Salieri.

Other movies that made an impact on me that year were Repo Man, with a young brash Emilio Estevez playing off well against the laid back Harry Dean Stanton. Robert Redford was fun to watch in Barry Levinson’s The Natural. Sir David Lean provided a memorable swan song in A Passage to India. I was riveted by The Pope of Greenwich Village, with great performances all the way around. The Razor’s Edge with Bill Murray made a strong impression on me at the time, turning me onto the literature of Somerset Maugham, and watching such classics as Rain. Albert Finney was great in Under the Volcano.

Of course, I couldn’t resist adventure movies like Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan and The Bounty, which had a pretty amazing cast including Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Edward Fox, even if it was a star vehicle for Mel Gibson. I found myself liking Reckless in spite of myself. I guess it was the music and brooding nature of this “first love.” I was also drawn into Paul Mazursky’s Moscow on the Hudson. And, no such list would be complete without mention of Nineteen Eighty-Four, although for all its hype it seemed to be missing something.

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