Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Down By Law

Some of my favorite movies appeal to me for no more mysterious reason than that I like them without having investigated the reasons why. Sometimes when I encounter a particularly attractive film I don't try to read anything into it and I don't want to analyze it and I don't give shit-one as to what the writer or director or cinematographer or actors were trying to say in subtext.

I just want to dig the show.

One such film for me is "Down by Law", written and directed by Jim Jarmusch.

Before I say anything else about it I need to point out something. I first saw this film when I was a young man and I had never seen anything like it. Now, being a typical American, almost every movie one encounters here--if you discount romance films--are very violent. And while I knew that I was watching a broad and human comedy, I kept wondering where the guns were, where the stabbings were going to be shown, where the bloody beat-down was going to occur, when the first murder would take place. a viewer I was a diesel engine on a narrow-gauge track.

Oddly, there is a killing in the film, but it's off camera and only referred to and is strangely funny. Similarly, there is one act of mild violence in the film and it is also oddly humorous. The only real action features some running and is absolutely hilarious when taken into context with the scene immediately preceding it.

I often recommend this movie. Most Americans I meet don't care for it.'s not full of gun-play and explosions and revenge-killings. We Americans are freaking weird that way.

Down by Law is an extremely well structured piece of art. The black and white photography and the grimy settings in the Louisiana low country are perfectly meshed. All three of the major actors are wonderful in their roles. John Lurie, best known these days as a director, is very good as a pathetic pimp. Tom Waits turns in a great performance as a prickly jackass every bit as rough as his gravel-voice would indicate. And this was the first time I ever saw Roberto Benigni who pretty much steals every scene he's in. If you pay attention, you also will note a very young Ellen Barkin in a role as Waits' girlfriend.

Well...there you are. As I said, I'm not here to dissect the thing. Only to say how much I enjoyed it and to let you know that I recommend the film. After all of these decades it remains one of my favorite movies.

Yeah. Benigni steals most of the scenes.

Yep. That's Ellen Barkin. Must be the first time I ever saw her.

Testing the screws.

Waits tries his best, but Benigni takes the prize.

Now what?

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