Down by Law

Jim Jarmusch, USA 1986, 107’
Stranger Than Paradise Mystery Train

Jarmusch's cult dark comedy set in the American South. Three unfortunate souls, the unemployed DJ Zack (Tom Waits), the pimp Jack (John Lurie) and poker player Roberto (Roberto Benigni), share a New Orleans jail cell. Contrary to his gloomy comrades, the perky Italian, though struggling with his English, brims with completely unfounded optimism and hope. Ultimately, he is the one who devises an escape plan, taking the trio to an inn lost among the treacherous swamps of Louisiana. The American South is a realm penetrated by Tennessee Williams and noir detective stories from the 1940s, but in this context, Down by Law plays like an ostentatious anti-crime story. Jarmusch himself called it a "neo-bit-noir" comedy, based on the contrast between the expectations of common perception and the ostentatious refusal to fulfill them. Roberto's character, with his Italian temperament and linguistic lapses, also supports the comedic effect. In slang, ‘down by law’ has several meanings - to be an outsider, to be carefree, cool, calm, and finally - be truly outside the law. Jarmusch's protagonists are down by law in every one of those ways.

Małgorzata Sadowska


Amanda Awards, Norway 1987 - Best Foreign Feature Film; Bodil Awards 1988 - Best Non-European Film; Danish Film Awards (Robert) 1988 - Best Foreign Film; Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists 1987 - Best Actor (Roberto Benigni)

Jim Jarmusch

Jim Jarmusch was born in 1953 in Akron, Ohio, and is one of the most important figures of in the history of independent cinema. Jarmusch studied at New York University Film School and Cinémathèque Française. His mentor was Nicholas Ray (director of Rebel Without a Cause), for whom Jarmusch also worked as assistant director. Thanks to the success of his first films, especially Stranger Than Paradise (1984), which won the Golden Camera at Cannes, Jarmusch came to symbolize a new generation of independent American cinema and became a critics' darling. The combination of his specific sense of humor and oft-used static scenes is so characteristic that the term Jarmuschian is understood throughout the world today. Laureate of, among others, Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for a short film (Coffee and Cigarettes III, 1993) and winner of numerous other awards.


1980 Nieustające wakacje / Permanent Vacation

1984 Inaczej niż w raju / Stranger Than Paradise

1986 Poza prawem / Down by Law

1991 Noc na Ziemi / Night on Earth

1995 Truposz / Dead Man

1999 Ghost Dog: Droga samuraja / Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

2003 Kawa i papierosy / Coffee and Cigarettes

2005 Broken Flowers

2009 The Limits of Control

2013 Tylko kochankowie przeżyją / Only Lovers Left Alive

2016 Paterson

2016 Gimme Danger (doc.)

2019 Truposze nie umierają / The Dead Don’t Die

Cast & Crew

director Jim Jarmusch
screenplay Jim Jarmusch
cinematography Robby Müller
editing Melody London
music John Lurie
cast Tom Waits, John Lurie, Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi, Ellen Barkin, Billie Neal, Rockets Redglare, Vernel Bagneris, Thimothea, L. C. Drane, Carrie Lindsoe, Ralph Joseph, Richard Boes, Joy Houck Jr., Dave Petitjean, Adam Cohem, Archie Sampier, David Dahlgren, Alex Miller, Elliot Keener, Jay Hilliard
producer Cary Brokaw, Otto Grokenberger, Alan Kleinberg, Rothman, Russell Schwartz, Jim Stark
production Black Snake Inc. Grockenberger Film
Polish distributor Gutek Film
language English
coloration b&w
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