john lurie and roberto benigni

“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.”

Happy birthday, Mr. Jarmusch.

Read J. Hoberman’s essay on where it all began: STRANGER THAN PARADISE.

Look through polaroids of Tom Waits, John Lurie, and Roberto Benigni while filming DOWN BY LAW.

Or watch Jim talk about musicians, filmmaking, Robert Mitchum, and the Sons of Lee Marvin.

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 the actors.”