FILM INFO: 107 minutes, U.S.A., 1986, Black and White, D-Cinema


This film closes on Thursday, September 18th.

A slacker DJ kicked to the kerb by his girlfriend, a small-time, stitched-up pimp and an irritating Italian tourist struggling to learn English find themselves on the wrong side of the law and banged up in a jail cell in New Orleans. They all have justifiable grievances with the cops who put them there, though they have a harder job bearing each other. Jim Jarmusch dubbed his third feature a ‘neo-beat-noir-comedy’, and it remains as strikingly original and as effortlessly cool as it was when it was first released.

The casting is inspired, with Roberto Benigni a manic rubber ball bouncing between two pillars of hipness in Tom Waits and John Lurie, while Robby Müller’s black and white photography is exquisite. After breaking ground with Stranger than Paradise, Down by Law cemented Jarmusch’s reputation as the darling innovator of American independent cinema, and his influence can never be understated. Down by Law is the mark of a filmmaker who has been often imitated, but never bettered. (Notes by Michael Hayden.)

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