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Down By Law (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Tom Waits , John Lurie , Jim Jarmusch    R (Restricted)   Blu-ray
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Down By Law (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] + Stranger Than Paradise (The Criterion Collection) + Mystery Train (Criterion) (Blu-Ray)
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After creating one of the breakthrough movies of the American independent cinema, Stranger than Paradise, Jim Jarmusch stayed right in the same minimalist, oddball, black-and-white groove. Down by Law takes place in Louisiana, where two losers (musicians Tom Waits and John Lurie) find themselves stuck in a jail cell together. One day they are joined by a boisterous Italian (Roberto Benigni), and the chemistry changes--suddenly an escape attempt is on the horizon. Conventional drama is not Jarmusch's intention; one of the emotional high points of this movie is the three guys marching around their prison cell shouting, "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!" Yet the deadpan style creates its own humorous mood, underscored by melancholy (also underscored by the music of Lurie and the gravel-voiced songs of Waits). This was the first American film for Roberto Benigni, the Italian comedian (Life Is Beautiful), and he lights it up with his effervescent clowning. Jarmusch has said that Down by Law forms a loose trilogy with Stranger than Paradise and the subsequent Mystery Train, a triptych of disaffected, drifting life in the United States. Few filmmakers have ever surveyed ennui so entertainingly. --Robert Horton

Special Features

The low-budget aesthetic of Jim Jarmusch informs the eclectic bonus features on Criterion's Down by Law DVD. A high-definition digital transfer ensures that the film never looked or sounded better, and Jarmusch's wide-ranging reflections offer a welcome alternative to a full-length commentary. The 1986 Cannes press conference is a polyglot affair, providing interesting then-and-now perspectives on the film and its creators, energized by the effervescent personality of Roberto Benigni. John Lurie's Cannes interview is a hangover in progress, and his 2002 commentary a self-deprecating reflection on his wilder past. In a 2002 interview, cinematographer Robby Müller eloquently defines his artistic outlook and the technical aspects of shooting Down by Law, while the "Jarmusch Q&A" entertainingly answers e-mails (some serious, some peculiar) sent to Criterion's Web site. Jarmusch's 2002 phone calls to Tom Waits, Lurie, and Benigni are casual curios, as is the rarely seen, Jarmusch-directed video for Waits's eccentric Cole Porter cover, "It's All Right with Me." Sit back and enjoy; coffee and cigarettes are optional. --Jeff Shannon

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended Jan. 22 2013
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Wonderful movie, three great characters, thoroughly entertaining. Tom Waits & John Lurie play Zack & Jack, sour, trapped losers, carrying the movie ably but not really taking it anywhere, except into a New Orleans jail cell. With the arrival of Bob, played by Roberta Benigni, the movie lifts off. Up until Bob is put in the cell, Down By Law is hardly what anyone could call a comedy; with him, DBL escapes (literally) the confines of the fate of Zack & Jack, going, like them, nowhere. Benigni, at times, froths things up to absurdity, the rest of the time displaying solid, comedic chops, while, throughout, displaying a wonderful humanity. Highly recommended, in glorious black & white, with a terrific soundtrack
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5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Magic! June 10 2003
Format:DVD
Three Stooges meet "Waiting for Godot." Lurie, Waits and Benigni turn in great performances. They've been locked up in a Lousiana penitentiary for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jarmusch gives you each of their sordid lives in turn before throwing them together in a jail cell. Benigni plays wonderfully off Lurie and Waits, culminating in a hilarious version of "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice scream." Eventually, they find the light at the end of a tunnel, only to have to escape through a swamp. Jarmusch gives his characters plenty of room, making for many amusing interchanges. Jarmusch provides deft camera work and his usual wonderful eye for detail to make this his most memorable film.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not only moody, but moody New Orleans Nov. 19 2003
By A Customer
Format:DVD
Great movie, inspired casting, subtle direction.
"Down By Law" also perfectly crystalizes the lower echelon life experience in New Orleans, which is pleasantly surprising given that it's so elusive, and, that none of the principals are natives. Although Tom Waits did spend a lot of time here - I saw him and Rickie Lee Jones perform together while they were living here in the 9th Ward, so maybe that counts for something in terms of him getting into character.
BTW, just as an aside, I saw this film again with Italian friends in Italy in a cinema last year and the Italians LOVE this movie. Not just because of Benigni (like any big star in his home country, there are mixed feelings about him) but because the film is so wonderful.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie, great transfer May 8 2003
By T. Mead
Format:DVD
This movie is a classic. The criterion collection DVD's are, in general and in this case, worth the little extra money. While DVD's may not be forever, they are certainly longer-lived than VHS tapes and Criterion's treatment of the films is worthy of such a lifespan.
Bonus: If you are a fan of any of the three main actors, this film is a gem.
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4.0 out of 5 stars This is a Good Film! March 7 2003
Format:DVD
This unique and original film is a personal masterpiece, a real sleeper. I'd recommed it to anyone interested in non-formula American cinema in general, and fans of the macabre. It ranks up there with some of the better black and white movies of recent times, in the mold of Woody Allen's "Manhattan".
What made this film great for me, was that the director masterly chose to leave out extraneous footage and instead keep our focus on character development - much the way Jean Luc Goddard does. Indeed Goddard's stamp is felt everywhere in this picture, which is why I liked it so much. This is America's answer to neorealism and done very well. The fact that we don't really see exactly how the main characters escape from prison, nor do we see how Zack rescues Bob from his fear of swimming add (rather than detract from) the plot, and give us more time with the personal nature of the characters, their "everyday chit-chat", etc, is what gives this film its charm. I won't give away the ending, but even that is told in an unorthodox manner, which is a breath of fresh air from formula Holywood films.
The acting is surprisingly naturalistic and believable, and Tom Waits gives an especially brilliant performance here. Roberto Bernini is hilarious as the sort of comic sidekick to the two streetwise contenders of the trio - this is a truly original chemistry of character mixes, and the film could have taken the more traditional path of "straight-guy/goofy-guy" as in Laurel & Hardy or Abbot & Costello, but instead wisely opts to break new ground by having two "straight" characters that battle it out for leadership.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It's a sad and beautiful world . . . Feb. 14 2003
Format:DVD
I can't say enough good things about the "Down By Law" Criterion DVD! The high-definition digital film transfer is wonderful and it really shows off Robby Muller's breathtaking b/w camera work. The DVD has 2 discs and the packaging is well done. The first disc contains the film itself and the second disc is packed full of goodies such as the insightful "Thoughts & Reflections" from director Jim Jarmusch, a "2002 Video Interview" with director of photography Robby Muller, "1986 Cannes Film Festival Press Conference" with Jarmusch and cast members John Lurie, Roberto Benigni & Nicoletta Braschi that is fun to watch, a great "1986 Interview" with John Lurie + his hilarious commentary on the interview, a bunch of film "Outtakes" which feature some great never before seen bits (especially with Lurie!) a terrific Tom Waits music video for "It's All Right With Me" also directed by Jarmusch and 3 wonderful recorded phone conversations from 2002 that Jarmusch had with Waits, Benigni and Lurie about making "Down By Law", etc.
The extras on the DVD give an intimate view of this very personal film and are amazing to watch and listen to. It's so complete that I can't imagine what else could be added to the Criterion release to make it more perfect. Many years from now when Jarmusch and the cast have left this sad and beautiful world, this gem will no doubt be a priceless look at one of the best American films ever made by one of America's best directors. Fantastic! One of the best films Criterion has released.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best DVDs in my Collection!
I have to admit, I bought this blind for three reasons: 1- The premise sounded humerous, 2- I like roberto benigni, and 3- It's a criterion 2-disc set. Read more
Published on Feb. 10 2003 by Guy
2.0 out of 5 stars I love black and whites but this grows a little long
I love when a film has such bad lines even the actors seem to be laughing through them. The comic humor is there in this black and white that came out on DVD recently. Read more
Published on Jan. 18 2003 by "confucius4thought"
5.0 out of 5 stars Busted, Framed, and Friendships!
Zack (Tom Waits) has just been fired from his job as a DJ and he is thrown out by his girlfriend. Jack (John Lurie) is offered another prostitute under his wings as a pimp by a... Read more
Published on Oct. 27 2002 by Kim Anehall
5.0 out of 5 stars "Down By Law" DVD - Criterion Delivers in Spades
This "Down By Law" DVD is a perfect example of why I love the Criterion Collection's catalog. First off, the film looks and sounds fantastic. Read more
Published on Oct. 20 2002 by robb0117
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost as good as Stranger
I loved Down by Law. It's a good place to start if your just getting into Jarmusch. It's more accessible than Stranger Than Paradise. Read more
Published on Oct. 15 2002 by Stephen M. Lescure
5.0 out of 5 stars the best JIm Jarmusch film
Tom Waits, John Lurie, Roberto Benigni... in a Jarmusch film...
What else is there to say??!!!!!
gorgeous cinematography, subtle, poignant humor...painful beauty. Read more
Published on Aug. 20 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tom Waits Show
It's a Tom Waits Show...a must for his fans. We follow the characters in a somewhat lonely black and white world (cause the film in in B & W)... Read more
Published on Aug. 11 2002 by Mohd Nor Khalid
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