Down by Law
Down by Law is part of "my canon," a totally arbitrary and subjective list of my 100 favorite movies. For reviews of other movies on this list, look for the Top 100 category on the right sidebar.
Down by Law is not only Jim Jarmusch’s finest film; it’s also one of the greatest American comedies ever made, not to mention one of the most American movies released over the last half-century. That last designation might seem somewhat meaningless—by what criteria do we deem something more or less American, considering the attributes of national cinemas always point towards generalization and simplification? When we think of distinctly American movies, big-budget Hollywood products or hard-boiled post-World War II film noir might come to mind. But Down by Law, in deceptively complex ways, is about American culture and communication: the natural landscape that’s both desolate and majestic, the simultaneous exploitation and celebration of immigrant populations, the cocky sense of entitlement that masks an all-consuming drive for success and happiness. Jarmusch’s poetic minimalism conceals one of the more remarkable expressions of "Americanness" ever exuded on film.
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