Down By Law (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
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Director Jim Jarmusch followed up his brilliant breakout Stranger Than Paradise with another, equally beloved portrait of loners and misfits in America. When fate lands three hapless men—an unemployed disc jockey (Short Cuts’ Tom Waits), a small-time pimp (Fishing with John’s John Lurie), and a strong-willed Italian tourist (Life Is Beautiful’s Roberto Benigni)—in a Louisiana prison, a singular adventure begins. Described by Jarmusch as a “neo-Beat noir comedy,” Down by Law is part nightmare and part fairy tale, featuring sterling performances and crisp black-and-white photography by esteemed cinematographer Robby MÃ¼ller (Paris, Texas).
DIRECTOR-APPROVED BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES • High-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack • Thoughts and reflections on the making of the film from director Jim Jarmusch in 2002 • Interview with director of photography Robby MÃ¼ller from 2002 • Footage from the 1986 Cannes Film Festival, including a press conference featuring Jarmusch and actors John Lurie, Roberto Benigni, and Nicoletta Braschi, and an interview with Lurie, with commentary • Sixteen outtakes • Music video for Tom Waits’s cover of Cole Porter’s “It’s All Right with Me,” directed by Jarmusch • Q&A with Jarmusch in which he responds to fans’ questions • Recordings of phone conversations between Jarmusch and Waits, Benigni, and Lurie • Production Polaroids and location stills • Isolated music track • Optional French dub track, featuring Benigni • Trailer • PLUS: An essay by critic Luc Sante
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
I have to admit, it was very cool seeing the Cannes film festival in '86. If you follow the festival, you know how presitigious it is, and how great it must be for everybody involved. You really get the feeling here. I also think its amusing how Roberto Benigni loves his wife so much that he puts her in all his movies, even when he's not the director! On top of that we get phone conversations between the cast (I think it's interesting hearing these phone conversations). Interviews, stills, production photographs, isolated music track, a music video and much more. I still haven't gone through all these extras!
Bottom line is this - if you're intrigued by the concept, like I was, and have reasonable expectations, this will be one of your favorites. It's certainly not for everybody, but it's very good nonetheless. I also want to point out how great the transfer is, and how beautiful the photography is in this picture. Now it's time to hit the "order now" button!
If you are a fan, there is no reason to miss this one. If you are curious about Jim Jarmusch as a director, this is the DVD to start on. A flawless package.
Most recent customer reviews
Been trying to acquire this little known DVD for many years; either unavailable, or cost prohibitive ($68.00 from one source!). Couldn't be happier. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Francis Melton
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... Read morePublished on Jan. 22 2013 by Amazon Customer
Great movie, inspired casting, subtle direction.
"Down By Law" also perfectly crystalizes the lower echelon life experience in New Orleans, which is pleasantly... Read more
Three Stooges meet "Waiting for Godot." Lurie, Waits and Benigni turn in great performances. Read morePublished on June 10 2003 by James Ferguson
This movie is a classic. The criterion collection DVD's are, in general and in this case, worth the little extra money. Read morePublished on May 8 2003 by T. Mead
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 morePublished on Jan. 18 2003
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 morePublished on Oct. 27 2002 by Swederunner