Down by Law
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Running time: 107 minutes
Down by Law (1986), the third film by maverick American director Jim Jarmusch, followed in the wake of his successful Stranger than Paradise (1984) and is an equally off-beat, character-driven drama underpinned by a wilfully abstract sense of humour. Shot entirely on location in Louisiana, in black and white, it uses typically unexpected casting to create a hilarious portrait of three loners and misfits: Zack, Jack and Bob. Starring musicians Tom Waits and John Lurie (who also scored the film's soundtrack), as well as the then unknown Italian comedian Roberto Benigni, it builds its story around the key characteristics of each actor (in the case of Benigni, for example, a distinct lack of english skills) while incorporating a good dose of improvisation into what was already a loose script. Zack (Waits) is an out of work DJ and Jack (Lurie) a small-time pimp who find themselves set up and thrown in jail, into a cell with Roberto (Bob), a cheery Italian immigrant who understands minimal English but happens to have been imprisoned for manslaughter. Jack and Zack argue and refuse to speak to each other whereas Bob has an irrepressible need for conversation. Bob hatches a plan to escape and an adventure ensues. The film captures a bygone New Orleans, with its swampy landscape and archetypal architecture masterfully captured through the austere camera work of esteemed Dutch cinematographer Robby Müller. Described by Jarmusch as a “neo-Beat noir comedy” who, by his own admission, wrote the script for the film without ever first visiting its location, it's an enduring off-beat Indie classic that enjoyably redefines the overused genre of the prison escape movie.
Reservation is not necessary, but places are limited. Please arrive early to avoid disappointment.