Down by Law

Down by Law

5.0 6
Director: Jim Jarmusch

Cast: Jim Jarmusch, Tom Waits, John Lurie, Roberto Benigni


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Jim Jarmusch's landmark independent film Down By Law comes to DVD with a widescreen transfer that preserves the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1. English and French soundtracks are rendered in Dolby Digital Mono. Subtitles are accessible in both of those languages as well. Supplemental materials include reflections from Jarmusch, an interview with…  See more details below


Jim Jarmusch's landmark independent film Down By Law comes to DVD with a widescreen transfer that preserves the original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.78:1. English and French soundtracks are rendered in Dolby Digital Mono. Subtitles are accessible in both of those languages as well. Supplemental materials include reflections from Jarmusch, an interview with cinematographer Robby Muller, footage from a 1986 Cannes Film Festival press conference with the director and his three lead performers, the original theatrical trailer, and other extras. This is a superb release from Criterion, showing once again why they are one of the most respected names in home video.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Gregory Baird
Infused with the hip, deadpan charm that is his trademark, indie auteur Jim Jarmusch's second film is a sly, understated comic gem. Set in Louisiana, the slim story concerns a pimp (John Lurie), an out-of-work radio DJ (Tom Waits), and an Italian expatriate (Roberto Benigni) who become friends while sharing a jail cell, but the plot is almost beside the point. Down by Law revels in its offbeat characters and their tentative stabs at friendship in long scenes that capture the poetry of everyday life. Waits and Lurie ooze their distinctive downtown charisma, but it's the Italian comic superstar Benigni who provides the film's real spark. His character's broken, phrasebook English and puppy-dog lovability steal the show, holding the film's unlikely trio together through a handful of not particularly harrowing adventures in the Louisiana bayous. As with all Jarmusch films, the whole is much, much more than the sum of its parts. Robby Müller's starkly gorgeous black-and-white cinematography, Lurie's restrained and bluesy score, and Waits's songs combine to create a haunting atmosphere that perfectly complements the film's ultra-dry humor. The result is an odd blend of character study and fairy tale with a sneaky allegorical resonance that is uniquely Jarmusch and completely captivating.
All Movie Guide
Though not as critically successful as his debut, Stranger Than Paradise, director Jim Jarmusch's Down By Law is a worthy follow-up in a similar vein. It features the same deliberate rhythm, off-beat characters, deadpan humor, and emphasis on photography (by the famed German cinematographer Robby Müller). Willfully original and intensely independent, the typical Jarmusch film isn't a product that mainstream audiences are likely to enjoy. He combines his enigmatic characters with the esoteric pacing and sensibility of his peer, Wim Wenders. Down By Law is slightly more accessible than Wenders' films, however, due to the slapstick presence of Roberto Benigni. Benigni's staccato voice and mincing of English clichés are very funny, though Jarmusch occassionally lets him run on too long. Luckily, the director keeps the rest of the film generally obtuse, uncertain and interesting.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
[B&W, Wide Screen]
[Dolby Digital Mono]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption; New high-definition digital transfer, enhanced for widescreen televisions; Thoughts & reflections by Jim Jarmusch; 2002 video interview with director of photography Robby Müller; 1986 Cannes Film Festival press conference with Jarmusch & stars John Lurie, Roberto Benigni & Nicoletta Braschi; 1986 John Lurie interview with commentary; Outtakes; Music video of Tom Waits singing Cole Porter's "It's All Right With Me," directed by Jarmusch; Q&A with Jarmusch; Jarmusch's phone calls with Waits, Benigni & Lurie; Isolated music track; Production Polaroids; Location stills; Original theatrical trailer; Optional French dub track, featuring Roberto Benigni; Optional French subtitles; English subtitles for the deaf & hearing impaired; Optimal image quality: RSDL dual-layer edition

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Tom Waits Zack
John Lurie Jack
Roberto Benigni Roberto
Nicoletta Braschi Nicoletta
Ellen Barkin Laurette
Jay Hilliar Guard
David Petitjean Cajun Detective
Billie Neal Bobbie
Vernel Bagneris Preston
Timothea Julie
L.C. Drane L.C.
Joy N. Houck Detective Mandino
Carrie Lindsoe Young Girl
Ralph Joseph Detective
Richard Boes Detective
Adam Cohen Uniformed Cop
Alan Kleinberg Corpse
Archie Sampier Prisoner
David Dahlgren Guard
Alex Miller Guard
Eliott Keener Guard
Rockets Redglare Gig

Technical Credits
Jim Jarmusch Director,Screenwriter
Cary Brokaw Executive Producer
Claire Denis Asst. Director
Otto Grokenberger Executive Producer
Jim Stark Co-producer
Alan Kleinberg Producer
Melody London Editor
John Lurie Score Composer
Donita Miller Makeup
Robby Müller Cinematographer
Naomi Neville Songwriter
Tom Rothman Co-producer
Russell Schwartz Executive Producer
Rudd Simmons Production Manager
Tom Waits Songwriter
Carol Wood Costumes/Costume Designer

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Scene Index

Side #1 -- Down by Law
1. Prologue [4:27]
2. Titles [1:22]
3. "We Can't Live in the Present Forever" [3:45]
4. These Boots Are Made for Walking [2:22]
5. "If You Was a Good Pimp" [3:14]
6. "A Piece of Chicken" [3:27]
7. Do Not Enter [1:17]
8. "Someone to Take Care of You" [2:33]
9. "It's a Sad & Beautiful World" [2:15]
10. "I'm in a Bad Mood" [3:43]
11. Lagnlappe [4:09]
12. "You Don't Even Exist" [8:18]
13. "Right Here on WYLD" [3:29]
14. "Makin' Time Go Slower" [1:03]
15. "Call Me Bob" [3:38]
16. Italian Hiccups, American Cigarettes [2:11]
17. "Do You Like Walt Whitman?" [:54]
18. "La Bella Finestra" [1:41]
19. "We Are a Good Egg" [4:22]
20. "I Scream-a, You Scream-a" [2:50]
21. "Hit Was a Prison Film" [2:15]
22. A Walk in the Yard [:48]
23. Mark Twain Will Save You [1:29]
24. "My Family in Half an Hour?!" [2:24]
25. "All I Ever Knowed" [1:39]
26. Bob Frost [:47]
27. "Goin' Around in Circles" [5:21]
28. Which Way Now? [2:39]
29. "I Love to Catch, to Dream..." [3:10]
30. Civilization [4:35]
31. "It's a Mirage" [1:43]
32. "Like in a Book for Children" [3:18]
33. "Have to Keep Going" [4:04]
34. "Wish You Were Here" [3:56]
35. Two Roads Diverged in a Wood [1:27]
36. End Credits [2:57]
Side #2 -- Special Features
1. Working With Jim [4:26]
2. Camera/Lenses [1:32]
3. Film Stock/Prep [3:26]
4. Master Shots/Lighting [1:54]
5. Momentum/Teamwork [3:17]
6. Camera Operating/Shooting [6:25]
7. Looking Back [1:37]
1. Standing Around [1:56]
2. Beginnings [9:25]
3. Meetings [6:00]
4. Intentions [6:28]
5. Money [1:59]
6. "My Life Is Changed!" [3:29]
7. Influences [6:43]
8. Actors [2:05]
9. Nodding Off [3:37]
1. Scene 3B [2:41]
2. Scene (R) 12 [:56]
3. Scene 13A [1:45]
4. Scene 14A [1:13]
5. Scene 15 [3:01]
6. Scene 16 [2:08]
7. Scene 19 [1:24]
8. Scene 31 [:39]
9. Scene 35/36 [1:50]
10. Scene 37C [:55]
11. Scene 39A [:32]
12. Scene 40A/B [1:04]
13. Scene 41 [2:09]
14. Scene 45A [:54]
15. Scene 48B [:32]
16. An Alternate Ending [2:15]

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5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw New Orleans after I had seen this movie and I am sure I saw more because of it. Great film and great music. It's Raining sung by Irma Thomas written by Naomi Neville (Allen Toussaint) is a gem in this movie and available on a great CD from Charly - Soul. I got to know New Orleans, Irma Thomas and Allen Tossaint - all from this movie. See it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
With a cast of Tom Waits, John Lurie and Roberto Benigni, direction by Jim Jarmusch, and music by Tom Waits and John Lurie, there is not really a way this could be a bad movie. Tom Waits' and John Lurie's music fits perfectly into the grimey after-hours New Orleans setting, and Roberto Benigni, (always the confused Italian tourist) brings some heartwarming humor to the table. After all three escape from a Louisiana prison, they are left to their own wits traversing the bayou with little idea where they are. In beautiful black and white, this movie is unbeatable on all fronts. With beat generation coolness and noir influences, Down By Law cannot be missed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It's an interesting premise with three convicted criminals sitting in a cell. Nothing happened that was suggestible in any jail parlance, so don't worry. What is implied by the film and the prison is life is ultimately about dealing with boredom and how boredom can break down those coveted relationships we have.
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