USA | 1986 | Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Logline: When three mischievous strangers find themselves sharing the same jail cell after each being set-up, framed or simply acting in self-defence, they escape into the wilderness of the Louisiana everglades.
Maverick indie auteur Jim Jarmusch hit the nail of bittersweet irony squarely and beautifully on the head with this black and white jazz riff on unlikely friendships forged in times of despair. It is arguably one of the most egocentric comedies of the 80s, and certainly one of Jarmusch’s crowning achievements (along with his monochromatic masterstroke Dead Man and the short Coffee and Cigarettes – Somewhere in California, all of them as elusively existential as they are ristretto black in humour).
Down by Law was Jarmusch’s third feature (and the only feature he’s made with American financing) and his first using Robby Müller behind the lens. Müller, a magician of monochrome, casts the film with superb tones and textures; the weathered homes along the streets of New Orleans, to the luminescent jungle of the everglades. This is film noir transplanted from the city and off the beaten track. It’s a fairy tale love story, but you’d never see it coming. It’s the buddy flick transmogrified. It’s a jam session of mood swings.