Jarmusch re-teamed with John Lurie after the breakthrough success of Stranger Than Paradise for this pitch-perfect Louisiana-set comic odyssey, shot in stunning black-and-white by Robby Müller. Three rebellious deadbeats—a prickly, gravel-voiced radio DJ (Tom Waits), a laconic, idealistic would-be pimp (Lurie), and a gregarious Italian expat armed with a handbook of English idioms (Roberto Benigni)—form an unlikely alliance when they land in the same New Orleans jail cell. Aside from featuring two of Jarmusch’s finest musical set-pieces—a daybreak crawl through the streets of New Orleans to the strains of Waits’s “Jockey Full of Bourbon,” and a knockout last-act dance set to Irma Thomas’s “It’s Raining”—Down by Law is an endlessly quotable character-driven comedy, a peerless study of male friendship, and a love letter to the bayous and back alleys of Louisiana. Benigni’s character delivers the film’s motto, which could be the refrain of Jarmusch’s entire body of work: “It’s a sad and beautiful world.”

Screening with:

Tom Waits – It’s Alright with Me
Jim Jarmusch | 5m

  • Directed By Jim Jarmusch
  • 1986
  • USA/West Germany
  • 35mm
  • 107 minutes