Down By Law (1986)

Down By Law

Down By Law – 1986

Director – Jim Jarmusch

Starring – Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni

Just like with each other Jim Jarmusch movie, I wasn’t interested in seeing Down By Law based on the cover art, the description, or the actors involved, and just like with each of the other Jim Jarmusch  movies that I have seen (Ghost Dog, Dead Man, Night On Earth) I really, really liked it a lot.

I’m not sure what it is about the marketing or the set-up to this particular director’s movies, but I’m never ever excited about them, and that is exactly where the disappointment ends.  I always love them when I force myself to sit down and watch them.  Strangely enough though, each time I’m done with one, I resolved to go forth and watch all of his stuff with my mind open and ready.  Somehow that never works out.

This particular movie centers around 3 men, all of whom fall into the down-and-out-loser category, and their introduction and consequent relationship with one another during their stay in, and their escape from prison.  Jack and Zack (Lurie and Waits respectively) both see themselves as being better than their current predicament, despite one being a pimp and the other being a drunkard who can’t hold a job.  Bob on the other hand, played charmingly by Roberto Benigni, fully admits to his wrong doing, seems to accept his punishment, and despite all that has a cheerful disposition on top of it.  At first both Jack and Zack scoff at, and make fun of Bob, but ultimately both end up relying on him to a great extent, and really appreciating him by the end.   It is during their escape, when they are trudging through the wilds of Louisiana, and their future looks bleak, that Bob through his intelligence, and fortitude manages to save them from the elements and get them on the path to salvation.

The most stunning part of this film, has nothing to do with the acting, it’s the cinematography!  It is shot in a gorgeous black and white, showing a gloomy, somber side of the traditionally cheerful New Orleans that you’ve never seen and aren’t likely to see again. Almost any shot in the movie could have been used as a poster, or for the DVD box.  The film is almost as sparse as it is filled with details.

This one is a must watch!  Of the Jarmusch movies that I’ve seen, it isn’t at the top (behind Ghost Dog and Dead Man), but seeing as how I loved each of his movies, that doesn’t actually mean anything.

On Tom Waits…”I’d rather watch him act than listen to him sing.” – Ashley