In 1989, neocon philosopher Francis Fukuyama published an essay "The End of History?" (three years later it was turned into a book, The End of History and the Last Man). The point of Fukuyama's paper (and book) was that American democracy marked the end of the road for all social and political development. Other forms of human rule or governing found their terminal point in the U.S., the leading symbol and champion of liberal democracy. Here, time had come to a standstill (paradise), and the last man was the American. Watching Jim Jarmusch's Stranger than Paradise, which was completed in 1984, one gets the impression that he, too, thought that America was the end of the road.

The type of human that comes to life at the end of history is "the last man." This is not a heroic human, like Nietzsche's "superman" or Russia's "new man"—but instead is either a couch potato or a slacker. The couch potato is on the political right; the slacker is on the left. Stranger than Paradise is about "the last man" in the form of a slacker. There are three slackers in the film—Eva (Eszter Balint), Willie (John Lurie), and Eddie (Richard Edson)—and what they do is basically nothing. The slacker, unlike the couch potato, is bored. The couch potato at least enjoys watching professional sports and eating bags of chips. Not the slacker; he/she is oppressed by the fact that he/she has so much time to burn and not much to do. This condition is captured by Jarmusch's long takes, nonsensical dialogue, pointless trips, and the relentless repetition of Screamin' Jay Hawkins's "I Put a Spell on You," a song that has totally consumed the life of one of the three slackers, a Hungarian teenager who has moved to the U.S. for no real reason.

The new Stranger than Paradise DVD enjoys the generous benefits of a Criterion release. It comes with Jarmusch's first feature, Permanent Vacation, and a 46-page booklet packed with heady essays by top critics—Luc Sante, Geoff Andrew, and J. Hoberman. Every time one watches this groundbreaking movie, one is amazed by the extent and beauty of American nothingness. Indeed, paradise is the strangest place on earth. recommended

New DVDs this week: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (HBO, $26.99), Snow Cake (IFC, $19.95), The Food of the Gods (MGM, $14.99), D.O.A.: Dead or Alive (Weinstein Company, $19.99), The Noel Coward Collection (BBC, $79.99), Triad Election (Tartan, $19.99).