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Down By Law
BLU-RAY disk
Jul 25, 2012 By: Mathew Plale
Down By Law order
Director:
Jim Jarmusch

Actors:
Tom Waits
John Lurie
Roberto Benigni

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
A DJ (Waits), a pimp (Lurie) and a tourist (Benigni) find themselves sharing the same New Orleans jail cell.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Its a sad and beautiful world.

Jim Jarmuschs third feature (after 1980s Permanent Vacation and 84s Stranger Than Paradise) Down By Law focuses on three men: Zack (Tom Waits, also lending songs from Rain Dogs), an out-of work DJ; Jack (John Lurie, also composer), a small-time pimp; and Bob (Roberto Benigni, no comb), an Italian tourist.

They dont belong on the same block, but they end up in the same cell without a say. Zack takes a job transporting a car that just happens to have a corpse in the trunk. Jack is set up as a pedophile by a rival. Bob kills a man. Zack and Jack land in prison first. They disagree, fight, then get comfortable. Months later, Bob comes, a smile as long as Bourbon Street. They disagree, fight, then get comfortable. This is quite a team.

Down By Law works on many levels--its a comedy, its a drama, its a fantasy. As comedy, its something of a fish-out-of-water tale where the fish, at times, want to gut one another. Also, Benignis mistranslations and hiccups aid one of the funniest turns of the 80s. As drama, its a story of coping outside of your norm and then deciding which road to take when opportunity springs. As fantasy, there are two telling moments. Early on, Zack insists that there is nothing real inside of the cell, that the bars and bunks are just creations. Later, the trios escape plan is hatched without flaw by the one man who cant speak English.

Down By Law toys with our expectations. It isnt solely a prison escape movie, no matter what synopses or some promotion artwork might suggest. Its a portrait of three characters in three sections of one city, dividing the runtime equally between the streets, the cell and the swamps. All of this is captured within the sharp, brilliant work of cinematographer Robert Mller, who, like Jarmusch, Benigni and the film itself, earned an Independent Spirit Award nomination.
THE EXTRAS
Thoughts and Reflections (1:13:18): In this audio interview, the disembodied voice of Jim Jarmusch discusses many aspects of Down By Law, including music, the New Orleans setting, shooting in black and white, casting actors, and much more.

Robert Mller Interview (22:39): Recorded at the Hortus Botanical Garden in Amsterdam, this interview has cinematographer Mller discussing his work and collaboration with Jarmusch.

Cannes Film Festival: Featured from the 1986 festival (where The Mission won the Palme dOr) are the Press Conference (41:45), with Jarmusch, Lurie, Roberto Benigni, and more, as well as a John Lurie Interview (11:39).

Outtakes (24:11): Jay Rabinowitz, who served as an apprentice editor on Down By Law and has edited all of Jarmuschs films since 1991, compiled this collection of 16 outtakes.

Its All Right with Me (4:41): Jim Jarmusch directed this video of Waits cover of Cole Porters classic. Also included are comments from Jarmusch on the video.

Q&A with Jim (24:48): Jarmusch fields a number of fan-submitted questions in this audio-only addition. Topics include pronunciation of his name, Waits not being drunk while shooting, the influence of punk and New Wave, his trademark hair, his favorite books, and the best advice Waits ever gave him (Never answer a question directly.).

Phone Calls: In 2002, Jarmusch recorded conversations with Tom Waits (28:45), Roberto Benigni (12:30) and John Lurie (24:20) on the subject of Down By Law.

Rounding out the special features are Production Polaroids, Location Stills and the Trailer.

Also included with this Criterion Collection Blu-ray is a booklet featuring an essay titled Chemistry Set by critic Luc Sante.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
Down By Law is one of Jim Jarmuschs most respected films, so fans had this one pegged for a Blu-ray upgrade for years. Although every last special feature was transported from the 2002 DVD, this is still an amazing release, with a flawless black and white high-definition transfer and hours of supplements, including a 73-minute interview with Jarmusch, footage from the 1986 Cannes Film Festival and outtakes.
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10:51AM on 07/25/2012
Love this movie.
Love this movie.
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