Friday, August 20, 2010

Down by Law

Down by Law; Drama, USA, 1986; D: Jim Jarmusch, S: Tom Waits, John Lurie, Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Ellen Barkin

Pimp Jack gets double crossed by his opponent who calls the police when he leaves him in a hotel room with a minor. Former DJ Zack also gets framed by a criminal who lets him drive a car with a corpse in it. Both Zack and Jack land in the same jail cell - sharing it with the wacky Italian Roberto. They manage to escape, swim the nearby river and hide in the forest. They arrive at a local bar where Roberto makes friends and falls in love with the Italian owner Nicoletta, who gives them food. Jack and Zack continue their journey separate ways.

"Down by Law" introduced Jim Jarmusch in an untypical edition. The typical Jarmusch would have overstretched the segment in the jail cell to the whole film, but this untypical Jarmusch surprised with the dynamic twist where the three protagonists escape from prison some half way into the film, which gave it the dose of unpredictability. Like almost all of his films, "Law" walks on the thin Jarmusch thread between boredom and poetry, yet this time he enriched it with much more "active" instead of "passive directing" - the thing that distinguishes the demanding story the most is the hilarious performance by Roberto Benigni who brings down the house because he seems as if he came from a completely different film: in one especially funny sequence, his character, with awful English accent, starts talking in front of Zack and Jack: "I Scream, You Scream, We Scream!" In another scene, Benigni draws a window in the cell and ask whether he should say look "at" the window or look "out of" the window. "Law" remained true to Jarmusch's minimalistic Ozu kind of storytelling, yet also managed to turn out much more fun and engaging, developing his style more than his previous two films.


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