Starting tomorrow and continuing through Wednesday, Seattle’s Grand Illusion Cinema makes a trip down to the Big Easy, as the theater screens the deadpan southern caper Down by Law in its retrospective devoted to Jim Jarmusch. The director was coming off his breakthrough with 1984’s Stranger Than Paradise when he concocted what he described as a “neo-Beat noir comedy.” This stylish bouillabaisse—shot in starkly beautiful black and white by the late, great Robby Müller—features Stranger star John Lurie, Tom Waits, and Roberto Benigni as three cellmates who make a break for it, becoming more and more mired in their own petty disputes as they flee across the Louisiana bayou. In his liner essay for our edition of the film, Luc Sante pays particular tribute to the buoyant performance by future Oscar winner Benigni, who was famous only in his native Italy at the time that Jarmusch cast him. “A wood sprite or maybe Pinocchio, he tips the balance of the movie . . . admitting pure, unburdened wonder,” writes Sante. “He leads the hipsters out of jail and into the wilderness, and ultimately to heaven, although he is the only one who gets to stay there.”
Two Stark Visions of the American Underbelly Hit the Big Screen
A new restoration of the groundbreaking vérité documentary Streetwise joins its companion piece, Tiny: the Life of Eric Blackwell, at New York’s Metrograph theater this weekend.