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Down by Law
Buy the DVD  Barnes &
Length:1h 47mins
Cast:Jim Jarmusch, Tom Waits, John Lurie, Roberto Benigni

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 Mller'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. Gregory Baird

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