Jim Jarmusch's Down by Law
is in the same minimalist, oddball, black-and-white groove as his classic of American independent cinema, Stranger than Paradise
(1984). The setting is 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 film 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 Italian comedian Benigni, (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
(1989)--a triptych of disaffected, drifting life in the United States. Few filmmakers have ever surveyed ennui so entertainingly. --Robert Horton, Amazon.com
Stuck together in a New Orleans prison, convicts Zack (Tom Waits) and Jack (John Lurie) are constantly at each other's throats. But then Roberto (Roberto Begnini), an Italian who speaks non-stop fractured English, joins them in their cell and becomes the object of their mutual disdain. Nevertheless, it is Roberto who brings the trio together long enough to organise a jailbreak. Directed by Jim Jarmusch, with music from Lurie and Waits.