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Blu-ray Review: Criterion Edition of Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Down by Law’

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CHICAGO – The Criterion Collection continues their pattern of releasing a few new titles on Blu-ray every month while also upgrading some of their catalog releases to the HD format. One of the latter for July is #166 in the legendary collection, Jim Jarmusch’s spectacular “Down by Law.” The film has no new special features but what was available on its initial release is pretty spectacular and the HD transfer is an expected beauty,

HollywoodChicago.com Blu-ray rating: 4.0/5.0
Rating: 4.0/5.0

I love the rhythym of “Down by Law,” a film that still plays wonderfully a quarter-century after its release. Much like the music of Tom Waits, who stars in the film, the movie has an non-traditional time signature, lurching forward with a fight scene and back again with a long scene of dialogue. The unusual structure of Jarmusch’s screenwriting would become one of his signatures but I find it the freshest in his earliest material, being a much bigger fan of films like “Stranger Than Paradise,” “Mystery Train,” “Night on Earth,” and “Down by Law” than what he’s done in the last decade. This is one of his best.

Down by Law was released on Blu-ray and re-released on Criterion DVD on July 17, 2012
Down by Law was released on Blu-ray and re-released on Criterion DVD on July 17, 2012
Photo credit: Courtesy of the Criterion Collection

Director Jim Jarmusch followed up his brilliant breakout film Stranger Than Paradise with another, equally beloved portrait of loners and misfits in the American landscape. When fate brings together three hapless men - an unemployed disc jockey (Tom Waits), a small-time pimp (John Lurie), and a strong-willed Italian tourist (Roberto Benigni) - in a Louisiana prison, a singular adventure ensues. Described by Jarmusch as a “neo-Beat noir comedy,” Down By Law is part nightmare and part fairy tale, featuring sterling performances and crisp black-and-white cinematography by the esteemed Robby Muller.

Special Features:
o Audio Interview With Jarmusch From 2002
o Interview With Director of Photography Robby Muller From 2002
o Footage From The 1986 Cannes Film Festival, Including a Press Conference With Jarmusch and Actors John Lurie, Roberto Benigni, and Nicoletta Braschi, and an Interview With Lurie, Featuring Commentary
o Sixteen Outtakes
o Music Video For Tom Wait’s Cover of Cole Porter’s “It’s All Right With Me,” Directed By Jarmusch
o Q&A With Jarmusch in Which He Responds To Fans’ Questions
o Recordings Of Phone Conversations Between Jarmusch and Waits, Benigni, and Lurie
o Production Polaroids and Location Stills
o Trailer
o Isolated Music Track
o Essay By Critic Luc Sante

“Down by Law” stars John Lurie, Tom Waits, and Roberto Benigni. It was written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. It was released on Blu-ray and re-released on Criterion DVD on July 17, 2012.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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