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It's a sad and beautiful world
by Jane Eagle
2007-06-05 07:18:19
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Down By Law
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Black Snake, 1986

Ok, great, focus people: We’re talking here about the third creation of an independent, gorgeous filmmaker by the name of Jim Jarmusch (bold his name spelling in your mind please!!): The movie Down by Law contemplates human personalities as arising from their interrelation with one another. Wanting to be more specific I’ll say it depicts human coexistence always from the angle of Jarmusch’s peculiar humor sense.

In short, the story takes place in a Louisiana prison where a pimp, a failed DJ, and a weird Italian guy (with just a bunch of English words in his pocket – that appear to be quite enough) make acquaintances. Despite the adversities developed among them they finally shake hands in order to escape from jail. “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.” (Don’t worry you’ll figure it out eventually, hehe). After their getaway attempt succeeds, they roam hungry and lost in the marshes of New Orleans until each of them picks to follow a different path.

The film progresses slowly, yet not boringly, in the first half and continues with a more intense dramatic plot. It oscillates between the classic script writing motives and the direction patterns, which were developed in the Jarmusch’s “Golden Century” (oh, yeah) that includes all his black&whites: Stranger than Paradise, Dead Man, Coffee and Cigarettes.

His mercurial spirit that simply emerges from the incidents, dynamites the amount of minimalism that dominates each film strip. Many critics for this reason classify the film as a comedy. Oooh, hush, it is something excessively more than just a funny flick. Jarmusch gives a recital of the character delineation, of the illumination on the darker trio bonding. The film with its aesthetics yearns for symbolism, that the spectator is called to interpret each time according to his temperament – my favorite kind of Art!

The photography of Robby Müller - he has worked with Wenders, Trier - is disarmingly magical. It will remind you perhaps of old movies of the 1930s or films noir of the 1950s and '60s. Since the film toys with nuances of black and white, it submits the sense that the pictures conceal truths. Truths the “author” simply doesn’t want to pass to his audience directly. Call me crazy, but in specific phases of the play I felt like seeing shades of green or beige…

John Lurie and Tom Waits embroider the picture with their music ideally. These two outstanding gentlemen of Jazz constitute also the basic cast (girls look, it’s Lurie and Waits!!!) accompanied with Roberto Benigni, who gives his best on building this excellent performance (this is his first appearance outside of Italian cinema). His character takes tragicomic dimensions as he drifts like a Modern Times Chaplin and speaks through his broken English for poetry and love. It’s a sad and beautiful world, he says…

The movie overall breathes lyricism, one of the most essential J.J.’s characteristics. The opening (charming) sequence where a camera strolls in the star-lighted streets of New Orleans “escorted” by Waits’ "Jockey Full of Bourbon" (I’m meeeelting, go get me buckets) can blow your soul away.

Watch it. With red wine… (trust me on this!)

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