Independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch gets a little out of a little. His film stock is the grainiest black-and-white, and his soundtrack sounds hollow. Each scene is shot in a single take (a common time-saving device), with blank frames in between. There is a brief reference to Yasujiro Ozu, but the stylistic rigors of Jim Jarmusch have little in common with those of Ozu (more with those of Warhol). And in fact the occasional use of a wide-angle lens betrays a rather suspect sense of composition — Ozu's strong suit. For all that, the movie reaches a level of lowlife inaccessible to any but an underground film. And the poverty-row subject matter and production circumstances are such as to safely lower one's expectations. Numerous critics have done their worst to heighten these, but low expectations are surely the only sort that will be met and surpassed. The narrative is divided into three geographical acts — New York, Cleveland, Florida — tracing the adventures of a Hungarian immigrant named Eva, and two New York buddies who have developed their own personal standards of hipsterism. (Richard Edson, with his roving Harpo Marx eyes, his reedy Dead End Kid voice, and his Emily Post commitment to small talk, steals the show from the others.) The third act rather disappointingly breaks stride, and shows a conventional urge to deliver a big payoff. (1984) — Duncan Shepherd
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