DOWN BY LAW
‘;\m 1 making it sound arcanc and ohscurc'." asks .lim .larmusch. tugging worricdly at his prcmaturcly grcy hair. ilc's just dcscrihcd his ncw tilni. thc soon-tii—lic—rclcascd /)()H‘ll By Law. as a ‘nco-hcat—noii' comcdy‘. and cxplaincd thc lilm‘s ayoidancc ol a spccil'ic tinic pci'iod hy rclcrcncc to his ‘intcntianally rcductiyc acsthctic.‘ l lc‘s good caiisc to look conccrncd.
‘My aim though.‘ hc says. "w as that
it should hc runny and intci‘csting and should kccp your attcntion. .s\nd you don‘t hayc to call it a nco—hcat-noirconicdy it you don't want to. You could iust say it makcs you laugh.‘ Which. in tact. is w hat it docs. lntcntionally rcductiyc nco—hcat-noir-conicdy or not.
'I‘hc adycnturcs. in and out ol a Louisiana prison. ol a haplcss and uniikcly trio madc up ol an Italian tourist. a pimp. and a l).l. Down l)’_\ [.(llt' is a sort ol road nioyic without thc car. and onc ol' thc most cntcrtaining and original lilins to conic out ol' .-\mcrica in a long whilc. 'l‘hc pcrlorniancc ol Italian Rohcrto Bcnigni as thc tourist haying trouhlc not only with thc law . hut also w itii thc iinglish languagc too. is a particular highlight.
'l‘hc thrcc lcad parts w cm in tact writtcn spccially tor titc thrcc itit’stitttctilttc‘ loungc lizard .lohn l.uric. and that protcssionally world—hcatcn hard Tom Waits. as wcll as tor Bcnigni
hiinscll. Waits though. who has alrcady l'caturcd in thrcc (‘oppola moyics. is said to hayc only hccn pcrsuadcd to appcar in thc tilm oncc hc kncw that hc‘d gct to wcar a hairnct in thc prison sccnc.
'Ycah. 'l‘om‘sa ycrycontradictory charactcr.‘ .larmusch says cryptically. You ccrtainlywouldn‘t cxpcct to ﬁnd him lost in a swamp in l.ouisiana. though that‘s whcrc .larniusch took his cast tor much ol Down l)’_\'[.(1lt“.\ shootingschcdulc. ‘lt raincd a lot.‘ hc rcmcmhcrs. ‘and wc all got sick. and wc had to watch out lor snakcs and alligators too. 'I‘hc thing is. [d not hccn to Louisiana whcn l w rotc thc .scrccnplay. lct
alonc any or thc swamps. hut ijtlst
wrotc it as l imagincd it *l'rom 'l‘cnncsscc Williams and .\'cw ()rlcans Rtk [3. that sort ol thing and thcn wc iiist lound thc placcs to l‘ii.‘
l.iying in \cw York. .larmusch rcckons his dcpiction ol'thc strcct lilc which lorms thc backdrop to Down By law is morc pcrsonal. ‘lt‘s ahout hall and hall.‘ hc says. ‘lictwccn cxpcricnccs ol my own and cxpcricnccs l‘yc siltcd trom othcr sourccs. l hayc hccn in jail tor cxamplc.‘ iiow comc‘.’ ‘Wcll. lor small inl'ractions. ldon‘t think wc'd hcttcr go into it. had wc‘.’ l.ct‘s just say l'yc always liycd in arcas with an actiyc strch lil'c. i‘yc always hccn intcrcstcd in thc languagc olthc sti‘cct too.‘
‘1)own hy law" is itscll‘ a slang phi'asc. ‘It originatcd.‘ .larmusch cxplains. ‘amongst rural hlacks in
Amcrica who moycd up north to thc citics. it thcy kncw how to .sury iyc in thc city thcy wcrc said to hc “down by law”. lhcn it camc to mcan somcthing likc “t'ratcrnal”. so it you and l wcrc in prison togcthcr. and i got out first. l‘d look atitcr your family for you. Now it’s cntcrcd hip—hop culturc and it incans "'l‘hat‘s cool”. You can say. “l’m down with that”. 'I‘hc phrasc intcrcstcd mc on all thosc lcycls‘.~
Jarmusch himscll grcw up in Akron. Ohio. a placc whcrc thci‘c was apparcntly ycry littlc in thc way ot‘strcct lil‘c. and hardly any cincmas cithcr. ‘Wcll. you could scc (iod/illa or .lamcs liondf .larinusch rcmcmhcrs. ‘hut rcally thc only thing that can saw your lilc growing up in a placc likc that is haying a car and rock and roll. 1 got a ti} ( ‘hcyy whcn l was ahout l7 and it had a radio too.‘ Not that hc hung ahout in Akron lot' long anyway. llc lct't lor(‘hicago hcl'orc hc was is. thcn w cnt to collcgc in .\'cw York. l'ollowcd hy ninc months in Paris.
‘it was whcn l wcnt to l’aris.~ hc cxplains. ‘that l l‘irst startcd sccing tilms. lincan l‘d sccn sonic hclorc. l kncw who .lcan Rciioir was. l‘ut in Paris 1 Liscd to go to thc cincnia cyci'y day. I suhmcrgcd myscll'. l liccamc intatuatcd with making lilms.‘ 'l'hc lirst onc hc madc. l’t’miamvit i'umlimz. in lUSll. gaincd him a cult and critical l'ollowing in lzuropc. whilc thc sccond. Smurgcr I/iim l’tll‘ilt/rst’. got :1 wclcomc Iiiiii'c appropriatc to thc sccond coming than to a sccond lcaturc w hcii it prcmicrcd in ( ‘anncs in NM.
A black and whitc road moyic. all singlc takcs. horcd cxprcssions. passagcs oldialoguc in Hungarian. and a suitahly disgruntlcd pcrl‘ormancc troni .loliii luric. Strange/"1111121 l’arm/rxt'packcdthcni in thc art—houscs. "l‘hc ﬁrst work ol post-\Varhol sciisiiiility to achicyc hroad audicncc popularity.‘ i‘. was callcd.
‘No. i don't know what that mcans cithcr.‘ says .larmuscli. who linds it ironic that his lilinmaking should now hc takcn as thc cpitomc ol calculating hipncss. ‘What i was trying to do with .eririigi'r 'l'liti/i l’unu/rsi' was to makc somcthing that was contrary to notions oi what was lashionahlc. It‘s a ycry dillcrcnt way or l‘iiming lrom thc uhiquitous Spiclhcrgian madncss oi moying camcra. dissolyc. quick cut. and so (m
‘lt docsn‘t intcrcst mc to lic caich lashionahlc any morc than it intcrcsts mc to hayc a swimming pool and a Mcrccdcs. All I'd likc is Mr cnough pcoplc to want to scc my lilnis tor mc to hc ahlc to go on making thcm in my own way and pay my rcnt at thc samc timc. it i canti gticss l'll lcarn how to rcpaii‘ rct‘rigcratoi'sorsoincthingt Simon liannci)
Issue no 32 __ .9 7 2.2m" 1987 _ Cover t‘rocodilc Hundcc Guest List l’coplc in thc ncws.
Crocodile Dundee. lhcl.ist‘sunrclialilcgiiidctol’aiil llogiiii‘s.-\ustialia pliislr‘cctickct
ollcr. lair diiikiiiii.
Rhyme and Reason.
.-\ garrct cyc \1cw ol thc prolilcms
Gene Hackman. \\ c mcct tiic much changcd
Listings. i’iill guidc tocyctits this loi‘tniglit lam/IS
Ruck :‘i (ipcii ‘l
l’ilm‘l i hcati'c iti .Nlcdia l‘l
.'\I't:ll Kids}: (‘lassical \lusic :5 Show N
BackHst \ightlilc and ( .itliis ( itlitic. iitiiiis's. i'itiiiti,
Publisher Riiiillt l ii itiLXL‘.
Editors \igcl liillcn. Saiah llcznniiiigﬁlasgow Editort iigiiiaiii (aldwcll. Associate Editor .-\ll.m l lama. Design Simon l'stcisoii. Advertising ls’oliiii ilodgc. i'litltct'\i oclitic Accounts (icoi‘gcttc chw ick. Ricliai it t i: an. Typesetting .lo iscititcdy . .-\ilccii .laidinc and i lcwci lc\t. Production Editor l’.iiil KcnpArtSally isiiiiics. Books \l.iii i.ii.loi. CIassicalMusict‘aitl \tam. Dancexlip. liain. Film .-\llai: l liiiitci. lit-xiii .lohnston. Folk/Jazz \oinianl lialiiicis. Kids Sally ls'iiiiics. Media \igcl liillcii. Sally lsiiiiic-s. Rock (Edinburgh) .'\irt\l.ilt .‘ylaiiliott, Rock (Glasgow) Iolm Williamson. Listen .\iidic.i \lillci Sport (ii'ahani ( aldw cll. Theatre \..i.iii ilcmniing. Camera l)ai icii l’iiiitiiig t ‘o Coverzt‘iot-otlilc i)tltiiicc CoverDesign Simon i‘stci‘stitl
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