Down by Law
Time Out saysJack (Lurie) and Zack (Waits), super-cool no-hopers, meet up in a New Orleans jail. Initially at odds with one another, they are soon distracted by the arrival of Roberto (Benigni), whose pidgin English, memories of old movies, and quotations from Robert Frost in his native Italian keep them both irritated and amused. Finally, however, it is this garrulous and eternally optimistic little man who leads the two self-appointed tough guys to freedom. Jarmusch's fairytale amalgam of prison movie, noir thriller and offbeat comedy bears some resemblance to his earlier Stranger than Paradise: both are in three parts; both concern jaded Americans transformed by contact with a foreign innocent; both are shot in stunning, sharp black-and-white. And again music (by Waits and Lurie) and mood are essential components to Jarmusch's poetry. But what makes this more accessible (and perhaps less ambitious) is the emphasis on humour; after the initial establishment of character and atmosphere, the laughs come thick and fast, most notably from the marvellous Benigni. For all the wit and style, however, the film's most delightful triumph is to demonstrate that 'Ees a sad an' beautiful world'.