“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.”
After screening at Cannes in May and at the New York Film Festival on 19 September, Jim Jarmusch’s 3rd film was released on 20 September 1986.
Jarmusch had met Roberto Benigni (who was famous in Italy but unknown
elsewhere) at a film festival and wrote the part for him (even though Benigni knew no English and Jarmusch knew no Italian). Benigni, like his character,
Roberto, kept a notebook of American idioms, which became a prop in the film.
The film received critical acclaim; Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times, “The excitement of ‘Down by Law’ comes not from what it’s ‘about.’ Reduced to its plot, it is very slight. But the plot isn’t the point.
The excitement comes from the realization that we are seeing a true film
maker at work, using film to create a narrative that couldn’t exist on
the stage or the printed page of a novel.”
“The performances by Mr. [John] Lurie, Mr. [Tom] Waits and Mr. Benigni are
extraordinary. However, they wouldn’t exist had they not been
photographed by Mr. Jarmusch and Mr. [Robby] Muller in the kind of deep-focus
that permits the three to be on the screen at the same time, in the same
frame. In this way they are able to act and react to one another - in a
way that just isn’t possible when the camera keeps intercutting between