Down by Law (1986)
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Starring Tom Waits, Roberto Benigni, John Lurie
Through a series of set- and frame-ups, three dudes end up cellmates in a Louisiana jail.
i left for a while after a half hour of this movie. i'm just not a jarmusch fan. it's too artschooly for me. i start having flashbacks. that said, i didn't think it was horrible. i did comeback to see the last forty minutes, but if it were up to me this could have easily been turned off. i just don't see the point. and the arrogance vibe leeches from the screen.
I have a Jarmusch problem. I always expect things to be on the level of Coffee and Cigarettes or better, but even that movie was only a B with special consideration for awesomeness in actors.
This was directed well and shot beautifully. Mr. Jarmusch does know how to make black and white pop and scenes are built around that perhaps too much. Story-wise, however, things didn't explode quite so much for me. In watching these three not-exactly-fuckups allow their zeal to ruin their lives, the first act was the strongest by far; and Benigni's weirdo Italian was by far the most entertaining.
Once they got to the jail things fell to a plateau which wasn't at seal level but was clearly not at the same level. You could feel their frustration and fatigue during the jail and (spoiler alert?) escape but there wasn't enough to engage or care about the outcome. The very good acting wasn't enough to make me feel tension or any other form of investment in the outcome. And the final scene was EXTREMELY student film (though the location scout did a great job).
This movie in particular has a clear point of view and the fact that that point of view is driven home with a ball-peen hammer is partially excused by the age of the film relative to the age of the director. But only partially. You need more than a series of extremely pretty black and white shots to make a good movie.