When they're not all busy being renegade, boundary-pushing, genre-blending musicians, Tom Waits and John Lurie sometimes do a few acting gigs. And this "neo-beat-noir-comedy" is one of their best. It's a veritable muthaload of cool: Written and directed by indie maverick Jim Jarmusch (Mystery Train, Dead Man, Broken Flowers), gorgeous black and white cinematography by Robby Müller, a grimy-dreamy New Orleans backdrop, and performances by the aforementioned Waits and Lurie along with Roberto Benigni (then relatively unknown to U.S. audiences).
Waits plays a down-on-his-luck disc jockey. Lurie is a small potatoes pimp. Begnini is a confused yet feisty Italian tourist. The odd trio meets in lockup at New Orleans Parish Prison. Each wrongly accused and each deeply annoyed by one another, they hatch a plan and escape -- and wind up slogging their way to freedom through the Louisiana bayous. Playing out in an understated, leisurely, typically Jarmuschian fashion, DOWN BY LAW is rich with atmosphere and slight on dialogue -- and it is without a doubt the best beatnik buddy comedy ever made.
DOWN BY LAW screens Monday, Feb 7 as part of Music Monday at Alamo Ritz.
[Note: We were originally slated to play Tom Waits' legendary concert film BIG TIME, which is still (sadly) not available on DVD and long out of print on VHS. But, the print we were to play had been damaged beyond playability and the studio opted not to release it to us. So, when life hands you lemons... you show a cool-ass Jim Jarmusch movie starring Tom Waits instead]