"Down By Law" DVD - Criterion Delivers in Spades
robb0117 | Seattle, WA | 10/20/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This "Down By Law" DVD is a perfect example of why I love the Criterion Collection's catalog. First off, the film looks and sounds fantastic. If you are familiar with this film, you are aware of Lurie's incredible soundtrack. The DVD does not disappoint. Visually, it is stunning. If this DVD package only delivered these elements, I would be happy. But, this DVD is filled to the gills with extras. Not only are there extras, but a double disk of extras! Remember, this is "Down By Law", not LOTR, Star Wars I, etc. This is a borderline cult/ art house film with a small, but strong fan base. Never, never, never would another company pour as much love and energy for the DVD of a film of this type. Take for example "Stranger than Paradise:" no face lift and no extras. "Down By Law" DVD notables: the entire Cannes press conference, Lurie interview for French TV in 1986 plus his 2002 commentary on his interview, extensive audio tracks of Jim Jarmusch discussing the film and answering fans QA (sent from the Criterion web site - Was Tom Waits really drunk? What does 'Down By Law' mean?), Robby Muller interview, Tom Waits video directed by Jarmusch with commentary, etc. etc, etc.If you are a fan, there is no reason to miss this one. If you are curious about Jim Jarmusch as a director, this is the DVD to start on. A flawless package."
Marc A. Coignard | Denver, CO United States | 03/17/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I haven't seen all of Jarmusch's films, but I've seen plenty (Ghost Dog, Mystery Train, Stranger than Paradise, Dead Man) to know this is probably gonna go down as my favorite of them all. Jarmusch and photographer Mueller do a brilliant job setting everything up. Its style is as classic and effective as the film noirs of the 1950s, including the seedy characters, the dialogue, and the moody jazz courtesy of John Lurie, one of the film's stars. Story wise, we're dealing with two lowlifes, a pimp and a recently fired DJ, who don't know each other, who are each set up and sent to prison for crimes they didn't commit. They are thrown in a cell together, and eventually an Italian who accidentally killed a man after cheating at a game of cards (hit him with an 8-ball--CLASSIC!) and find a way to escape. John Lurie is the pimp, Tom Waits is the DJ, and Robert Benigni makes his American film debut as Bob, the Italian. (Ironically, he is the kindest, funniest, most jovial of the trio, yet he is the only one who actually is guilty of the crime he's in for).
I've read the other reviews, and I'm dissapointed in why some people don't like the film. First off, I believe that Criterion has once again given us a top of the line DVD transfer. The extras are great for folks that are into the "hows" and "whys" of a film, as I am, and the transfer itself is clear and beautiful to watch.
The acting may not be the best (Lurie was adequite), the dialogue and storyline are right out of the 50s, and help the mood of the entire thing. The characters are introduced perfectly so that we don't really need to know why they're being set-up. Our imagination can do the walking for us there. We know they're both kind of shady guys, and there are any number of reasons why someone would wanna see them put away, or use them so that someone else doesn't get caught.
And as far as the reviewer wondering why we don't see the dogs, only hear them; don't see the escape, only the afterwards; and don't see the prison, only their cell, the answer is simple: its an indie film made before indie's were all the rage. Jarmusch could only afford so much, and I find that he did an incredible job giving us all the necessary information without having to show us everything that was going on. The only thing I might raise an eyebrow to is Bob and Nicoletta (Benigni's real life wife) falling in love in under an hour or two. But hey, sometimes, if its worth it, you gotta suspend reality. The chemistry between the two characters is enough for me to believe they're in love, so who am I to argue!
All in all, this is one of my favorite movies to watch. Criterion did a great job with this DVD, and at the very least, its a fun flick in the noir tradition, with a bit of a smart-ass underworld, beatnick edge to it.
...but that's just my opinion. I could be wrong."
This is a Good Film!
E. Dolnack | Atlanta, GA USA | 03/07/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This unique and original film is a personal masterpiece, a real sleeper. I'd recommed it to anyone interested in non-formula American cinema in general, and fans of the macabre. It ranks up there with some of the better black and white movies of recent times, in the mold of Woody Allen's "Manhattan".What made this film great for me, was that the director masterly chose to leave out extraneous footage and instead keep our focus on character development - much the way Jean Luc Goddard does. Indeed Goddard's stamp is felt everywhere in this picture, which is why I liked it so much. This is America's answer to neorealism and done very well. The fact that we don't really see exactly how the main characters escape from prison, nor do we see how Zack rescues Bob from his fear of swimming add (rather than detract from) the plot, and give us more time with the personal nature of the characters, their "everyday chit-chat", etc, is what gives this film its charm. I won't give away the ending, but even that is told in an unorthodox manner, which is a breath of fresh air from formula Holywood films.The acting is surprisingly naturalistic and believable, and Tom Waits gives an especially brilliant performance here. Roberto Bernini is hilarious as the sort of comic sidekick to the two streetwise contenders of the trio - this is a truly original chemistry of character mixes, and the film could have taken the more traditional path of "straight-guy/goofy-guy" as in Laurel & Hardy or Abbot & Costello, but instead wisely opts to break new ground by having two "straight" characters that battle it out for leadership.The "We All Scream for Ice Cream" segment is one of the funniest bits I've seen in a film in years and should be one of those rare legendary film icons by this point.The DVD transfer is wonderful - a crisp, clean print that looks great onscreen. Criterion have done yet another great job here.This is a gem of a movie and I highly recommed it!"
Busted, Framed, and Friendships!
Kim Anehall | Chicago, IL USA | 10/28/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Zack (Tom Waits) has just been fired from his job as a DJ and he is thrown out by his girlfriend. Jack (John Lurie) is offered another prostitute under his wings as a pimp by a competitor who wants to make amends. The circumstances lead to both men being framed and they end up sharing a cell in prison. Both men are bitter over their situation and they can hardly stand each others company. One day the peculiar Roberto (Roberto Benigni) is put in the same cell with Jack and Zack. This is the beginning of a new friendship between the three men where Roberto is the glue that holds the friendship together. Down by Law is an intelligent and cynical film that is presented in an anxious societal situation, which provides amusement for the audience."