Tag Archives: John lurie

Jim Jarmusch’s Down By Law: A Review by Nate Hill

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You have to be in a very particular type of mood to properly tune into a Jim Jarmusch film. He populates his often black and white and always slightly mournful films with awkward, dazed individuals who more comfortable in the uncertain pauses between dialogue than the actual words themselves. When I feel like a Jarmusch film (other than Dead Man which is an all timer for me) it’s always during times when I feel the daydreamy grey matter coming on, an otherworldly, downbeat relaxation that his  work is rife with. Down By Law is a signature example of this, and most likely the film I connect with most of his, after Dead Man. This one concerns three wayward and very different souls who by fate and unfortunate circumstance end up in jail together. Zach (Tom Waits) is a radio DJ who is hounded by his girlfriend (Ellen Barkin) to be more proactive and less relaxed. Jack (John Lurie) is a laid back pimp, and they both find themselves incarcerated in a Louisiana prison where they meet the eccentric Italian tourist Roberto (Roberto Benigni, hilarious). The trio are a puzzling gaggle of misfits, moments of startling pathos and stinging humour sprouting as their time together goes on. Soon they discover that Roberto may know of a way to escape, and see it as their chance. The characters in any given Jarmusch film never seem the same as usual film archetypes; they’re always quirky and completely their own person, which is no doubt a product of a very intuitive directorial process, and an excellent relationship with the actors. It can be disarming to spend time with such distinct people in film, but when you stop to realize just how weird everyone around you in real life is vs. what is common for movie scripts, it feels geniune. This one is lived in, authentic and funny in that intangible way where you can’t even say why it’s so hilarious. We all a-scream for ice  a-scream!