Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Down by Law (1986)

Written and Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Tom Waits, Roberto Benigni, and John Lurie

This is one of Jim Jarmusch's all time classic flicks. A sleeper hit of the 1980s, not too many people have heard of it, which is a shame because Jim Jarmusch is one the greatest Independent film makers of his time.

This story about a pimp, an unemployed disk-jockey, and a severely misunderstood Italian tourist takes place in southern Louisiana. All three get sent to prison for crimes they didn't commit and become cell mates. The three men break out of prison, and then the story follows them through the swamps and bayous of Louisiana as they try to make a break for their freedom.

Waits, Lurie, and Benigni have brilliant screen chemistry in this film. Benigni's character of Robert (yes, really) is the glue that keeps the men stuck together and helps form this strange bond. It's fun today to watch these actors when they were young and really starting to get into the prime of their careeers.

One of the things that make this film so great is that you have to engage in the story and the characters in order to understand them and what the narrative is trying to tell the viewer. One has to have an appreciation of film as an art to really enjoy a film like this. Everything isn't "given" to you like the story line of a mainstream film. The black and white aspect makes it that much more artful in it's presentation.

I wish more movies were made this way today. It seems like most (mainsteam) films made today are either a re-make of a re-make, CGI or computer animated, or film with a mindless script that has no feeling. Then there are films that are whitewashed by the media to seem great because they were made by a big-name director.

...but that's a post for another time.

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