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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)
List Price: CDN$ 42.99
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Down By Law (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] + Stranger Than Paradise (The Criterion Collection) + Mystery Train (Criterion) (Blu-Ray)
Price For All Three: CDN$ 116.97


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Product Description

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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
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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4.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best DVDs in my Collection! Feb. 10 2003
By Guy
Format:DVD
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. I have to say, this is one of the better blind purchases I made. Not only is the film very funny and sad at the same time (one of the better films from the mid 80's), but the DVD is one of the best I own. Criterion did a great job with the supplements here, and they are actually interesting (unlike most DVDs, where interviews consist of directors and actors talking about how great it was working with each other -- ie Minority Report).
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!
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5.0 out of 5 stars "Down By Law" DVD - Criterion Delivers in Spades Oct. 20 2002
Format:DVD
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. If you are familiar with this film, you are aware of Lurie's incredible soundtrack. The DVD does not disappoint. Visually, it is stunning. If this DVD package only delivered these elements, I would be happy. But, this DVD is filled to the gills with extras. Not only are there extras, but a double disk of extras! Remember, this is "Down By Law", not LOTR, Star Wars I, etc. This is a borderline cult/ art house film with a small, but strong fan base. Never, never, never would another company pour as much love and energy for the DVD of a film of this type. Take for example "Stranger than Paradise:" no face lift and no extras. "Down By Law" DVD notables: the entire Cannes press conference, Lurie interview for French TV in 1986 plus his 2002 commentary on his interview, extensive audio tracks of Jim Jarmusch discussing the film and answering fans QA (sent from the Criterion web site - Was Tom Waits really drunk? What does 'Down By Law' mean?), Robby Muller interview, Tom Waits video directed by Jarmusch with commentary, etc. etc, etc.
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
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 more
Published 19 months ago by productum
5.0 out of 5 stars Not only moody, but moody New Orleans
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
Published on Nov. 19 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure Magic!
Three Stooges meet "Waiting for Godot." Lurie, Waits and Benigni turn in great performances. Read more
Published on June 10 2003 by James Ferguson
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie, great transfer
This movie is a classic. The criterion collection DVD's are, in general and in this case, worth the little extra money. Read more
Published on May 8 2003 by T. Mead
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 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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