I was scanning through the curated playlists on FilmStruck to find a film that sounded interesting, and I found one curated by Bill Hader. On that list was "Down by Law", which featured Roberto Benigni, who I really like, so I decided to give it a watch. I was pleased overall.
The cinematography for this film is extremely strong. From the beginning of the film, there are long panning shots that establish the mood of the film. The shots are beautiful, and they really build the characters and work to create a sense of entrapment. The editing is also quite fluid, especially when the stories of the two primary characters have not been interwoven yet, creating a very polished product.
The writing of the film is also very good. There are funny moments, but it isn't hilarious. Instead, the focus is on the characters. Most prison films are focused on the escape, but this film focuses on the relationship between the characters, and it works very well. There are a few moments that seem out-of-place and a few moments that are a bit slower than others, but overall, the film is written pretty well.
I thought that the acting in this film was really good from the three protagonists. Tom Waits and John Lurie both give great performances with a great range of emotion, varying from comedic to dramatic in appropriate moments. Roberto Benigni serves as the comedic relief, and is extremely effective in his role. A lot of his charm shown in his later films really shines through, and I love that about him. He also has the ability to deliver jokes very well for a laugh. The supporting performances were rather small, but rather lackluster too. Most of the supporting actors seemed to be slightly inexperienced and overacting.
So overall, "Down By Law" is an interesting, well-made film, but it isn't perfect. There are some slightly cheesy moments and some slow parts, but it is good overall.
Down By Law
Big Tuna's Rating: B
How Did I Watch It?: FilmStruck.
Had I Seen It Before?: No.
Would I Watch It Again?: Maybe.
I recently subscribed to FilmStruck, the new streaming home of the Criterion Collection, in addition to selections from TCM, and I am impressed so far. They currently have a feature on the films of Charlie Chaplin, so I decided to re-visit some of my favorite.
For good reason, "The Great Dictator" is my favorite Chaplin film. It combines his signature brand of physical comedy with smart (not so indirect) political satire. This creates a result that is genuinely hilarious, but also has a lot to say about the society of the time, and even modern day society. The Barber's speech at the end of the film is so timeless and inspiring. It is truly one of the best moments in the film. The characters in the film are also very well-developed. All of the characters are three-dimensional, which is surprising. Even the antagonist is somewhat humanized, although it is hard to sympathize with him because he is so obviously meant to reference Hitler. The cinematography of the film is very impressive too, as is the editing, creating a very nice flow within the film.
So overall, I really love "The Great Dictator". It has some very funny political satire, and of course, the comedy for which Chaplin is famous. Those who have never seen this film should.
The Great Dictator
Big Tuna's Rating: A+
How Did I Watch It?: FilmStruck.
Had I Seen It Before?: Yes.
Would I Watch It Again?: Yes.
I look at films as if through old red and blue 3D glasses— one lens is as art, one lens is as entertainment.
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