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Down By Law [1986] [DVD]

19 customer reviews

Price: £19.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over £20. Details
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Down By Law [1986] [DVD] + STRANGER THAN PARADISE + Coffee And Cigarettes [2003] [DVD]
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Product details

  • Actors: Tom Waits, John Lurie, Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Ellen Barkin
  • Directors: Jim Jarmusch
  • Writers: Jim Jarmusch
  • Producers: Alan Kleinberg, Cary Brokaw, Jim Stark, Otto Grokenberger, Russell Schwartz
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: English, Italian
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: 15
  • Studio: Second Sight
  • DVD Release Date: 31 Mar. 2007
  • Run Time: 102 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00005NSVN
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 55,562 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

Product Description

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.

From Amazon.co.uk

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jasminka Muzinic Sabol on 10 Nov. 2003
Format: DVD
Far from being only a story about three guys in prison, this is amazing movie. Zack and Jack and Roberto (Waits, Lourie and Benigni)are in the prison for being in wrong place at wrong time, and maybe a bit because of doing wrong things. The story of escape is developed through the rich play of characters (no Speed-like actions... graciously, just people in time). My personal highlights: All of Tom Waits. Looking at the window drawn on the prison cell wall. I-screaming. Roberto's story of his dreams of his mother catching a rabbit. Terribly funny and inspiring.
Of course, when you dig Jarmusch, Waits, Lourie, Benigni.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By randolfff VINE VOICE on 7 May 2005
Format: DVD
Jarmusch is often consigned to the critically lazy category "acquired taste". His films are usually slow-paced, seemingly directionless, often focusing on dead-beats, outsiders, foreigners and other socially marginalized figures. As he's said himself, if he see's a character taking a phonecall and arranging a meeting, a cut, then the meeting itself, he wonders what the character might have done in the interim to amuse himself. Was he bored? Nervous? Did he watch some tv? Sing along in scat to a crackly jazz record on the radio?
If these kind of questions interest you, most likely Jarmusch will. 'Down By Law' is a visual treat, a fact quickly prefaced by its opening shots of New Orleans, seemlessly concluded with the final, symmetrical frame of the protagonists going their separate ways. If the performances are very natural but also very idiosyncratic, that might be because John Lurie and Tom Waits are principally musicians, not actors. And because Roberto Benigni genuinely knew very little English when the film was made.
The music, and the story, are enchanting, surprising and resistant to full narrative closure or an obvious moral. Benigni was not then the worldwide star he is today, and he has to fight on screen for air-time. It's worth the wait when the master comic raconteur gets going.
So here are some tips:
(1) if you like Benigni in this, check out a later Jarmusch film 'Night on Earth'. He gets a full half-hour solo as a chattering taxi driver. More adult than 'La Vita e Bella'. Funnier too.
(2) if you like John Lurie and Tom Waits, listen to their music. Between them they've scored a subtantial amount of Jarmusch's oeuvre. Lurie also stars in 'Stranger Than Paradise', an earlier Jarmusch film.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Martin on 2 Feb. 2006
Format: DVD
This is one of the best films I have ever seen. The photography is stunning throughout, atmospherically filmed in b&w, capturing both the seedy side of New Orleans in the 1980s and the beauty of the Louisiana bayous. It is essentially a black comedy about the interplay between the three central characters (Tom Waits is Zack, the unemployed DJ, John Lurie is Jack the small time pimp and Roberto Benigni is Bob, the wacky Italian tourist) who for dubious reasons all find themselves thrown together in a New Orleans jail. The film is beautifully understated - there are many periods when nothing much is happening, but it's magnificently enacted, adding comic tension, creating extra dynamic between the characters. The director, Jim Jarmusch said about the film: "I would call the style of the film 'neo-beat-noir-comedy', with a story line that openly accepts conventions and an atmosphere that is part nightmare and part fairy tale" That about sums it up. If I had to single out just one favourite passage it would probably be Bob's "rabbit" monologue - watch out for it - it's simply genius. A totally fantastic, hilarious film. Pass the popcorn and let's see it again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By BA Baracus on 11 Mar. 2005
Format: DVD
this is a wonderful little film, typical Jarmusch and i was not disappointed.
the region 1 dvd offers a lot of extras such as an extensive Q&A with Jarmusch about the film, interviews, Cannes promo, and another more humourous Q&A with fans about anything Jarmusch related and much much more.
the film itself is in my opinion his masterpiece, riffing on jaques becker's le trou and taking it into some odd comical fantasy elements.
tom waits, john lurie and roberto benigni are perfectly cast as trio of misfits who end up in prison and somehow manage to escape and find their way to safety.
robby muller's cinematography is wonderful and there is real depth and beauty in it that colour would never have brought out.
be warned if slow character driven pictures are not your thing then this might not be for you but if you enjoy that sort of thing you will be greatly rewarded.
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By Robin Friedman TOP 500 REVIEWER on 16 Sept. 2014
Format: DVD
"Down by Law", a 1986 low-budget film was a surprising and rare find. It is the third work directed by independent film director Jim Jarmusch, and it stars Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni as a trio of convicts consigned to the same cell in a dismal New Orleans prison.The film is in a grainy black-and-white which captures the grimness of the surroundings and which makes the movie seem to come from an earlier era.

The film can be divided into three parts. The first part shows the lives of Waits and Lurie on the streets of New Orleans. One is a failed disk jockey while the other is a pimp. The second part of the movie shows the three protagonists in jail. Waits and Lurie don't get along. Benigni plays an Italian jailed for manslaughter who talks incessantly in a broken English and brings the three men together. They figure out an escape, but the movie dwells much more on the relationship between the three prisoners than on the mechanics of the escape. The third part of the film shows the three men wandering in search of safety and freedom through the Louisiana swamps on the border with Texas following their escape.

This is a tough-minded film which explores New Orleans streets, a harsh prison, and the swamps. The cinematography by Rubby Muller features realistic, slow shots of each setting and is in the black and white shadow of old film noir. The film also features a down-home Louisiana musical score by Waits and Lurie and with songs by New Orleans artists including Irma Thomas. The story has themes of trouble, friendship, and finding possible redemption. The Louisiana setting is surprisingly realistic especially because Jamusch confessed to writing the script before ever setting foot in the state.
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