Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 40

Watched Jim Jarmusch's Down By Law last night.  His most critically acclaimed film, Law is the story of two small-time nobodies (Tom Waits, and some other guy) who are both set up from crimes they don't commit and end up together in a cell.  They are joined by an Italian traveler (Roberto Benigni) who has accidentally killed a man in a fight over a card game.  The movie is the story of their time together in jail, and of their eventual escape.

The movie--especially in the beginning, as we follow Zack and Jack (the two 'nobodies') around the broken down back streets of New Orleans--feels a lot like a Tom Waits song set to images.  For me, this opening sequence was the most successful.  Once the men end up in jail there's a lot of squabbling and random outbursts.  Essentially, the viewer is watching people get gradually more irritated and annoyed.  It's not a very interesting experience.  Benigni's arrival in the jail lightens the mood considerably and when they finally escape, into the Louisiana swamps, the change of scenery goes a long way towards reinvigorating the viewing experience.

But, on the whole, I'd Down By Law was a bit too loose and meandering for my tastes.  There's an essential emptiness at the core of all the Jarmusch films I've seen.  To his admirers, it's a profound admission of our collective spiritual anomie.  To me, it feels like a failure of imagination.

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