Stranger Than Paradise

I young film maker who is interested in me becoming his cinematographer or possible technical director has recommended I look at a series of films. The other night I watched an interesting film called STRANGER THAN PARADISE. This film has kind of been on my mind for the past couple of days. Visually the film had a stunning quality to it. It was like looking at a gallery of stark black and white photo-documentary style images, which came to life. The entire movie was a series of one take, single camera scenes of the extraordinary caliber. The film was directed by Jim Jarmusch and came out in 1984 and I could not tell if Jarmusch was genius in its conception or just being artistic for conceptual sake. When I think the real brilliance of the film belongs to his cinematographer Tom DiCillo. The actors verged on believable naturalistic to crossing into distraction. There seem to be no plot, character motivation, or story line; but somehow that all seemed arbitrary to what the film was actually about. I was utterly captivated the duration of the film by the visual boldness of the project. The images were well composed, mostly naturalist lighting, with an authentic feel for timeless realism. There were a couple of sequences that were utterly brilliant to watch.

The entire experience took me back to my beginning days when I was first getting into photography when this was my own style of shooting. To be able to tell a story visually within the context of your frame. In the beginning I only shot black and white, processed and printed myself. It’s what captivated and fascinated me about photography to pursue it as an art form. When I first started I always carried my camera with me and shot everything around me. Recording my world, exploring my relationship to place, mood, and tone. It was always about my emotional feeling; I felt in this time and space much like an image by Brassai. I love those kinds of images. During this period most of my images were devoid of people and focused mostly on place and feeling. Granted if I were to go back and look at those images again, they may reveal a certain romantic naïveté as a beginner just exploring the parameters of his newfound tools. But the world around me seemed to come alive.

Later that evening, I dropped in on a friend on the north side of town. It was one of those remarkable evenings, after so much rain and cold that everyone was outside soaking up the last rays of the day. The sun was just setting with the extraordinary glow in the air. I was suddenly captivated by everything I saw. I began to visualize it in the old black and white images of how I used to shoot. I was like I had stepped back in my own history. Suddenly that entire neighborhood became a series of remarkable images. I was drawn out of my car and began to wander that old neighborhood. My senses were keenly sharpened with shape, texture, and tone into a heightened sense of remarkable beauty. The light was absolutely perfect. The only thing missing was my camera. There were so many stories to be told, dirty children playing in the street, two guys getting stoned by a car in their backyard, the beautiful impressionistic qualities of the lilacs blooming as if in a Monet garden. Texture, structure, old, new, blending seamlessly. Mystery filled my head as I wondered. When did I get away for shooting such remarkable feeling?

3 thoughts on “Stranger Than Paradise

  1. Jes

    >Remember the first "film projector" you made for Clyde's bon voage party at Sonya's? You've come along way baby!

  2. Lorri

    >Terry don't know if you remember me but I remember you well. Mostly I remember the night in downtown Superior when you had little to much to drink and ran across the street and jumped on the hood of my little red truck bending the hood frame forever. I was probably very angry and said things I shouldn't have but I do remember how funny you were. You have a great talent for photography and writing as well. I have really enjoyed reading your blog.

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