BJ Rochinich plays guitar for the Morgantown, WV band Ancient Shores, who released the Step to the Edge 7" last year on A389 Recordings. Rochinich (pictured below right) lends his voice to Scene Point Blank for a new column that explores perceptions of film and art.
His turn-ons include Kafka, Calvin and Hobbes, NPR, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Frisky Dingo, and C-Span.
Click below to watch a trailer for Down by Law. Now over to BJ.
A dynamic between characters is not often taken for granted by a movie viewer, whether they realize it or not. Chemistry between actors inside the fourth wall is an essential element in an engaging film. Good character interactions invite the viewer to relate closely to the problems and themes of the film. The 1986 film Down by Law, written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, allows a viewer to experience the musings and experiences of a group of individuals dealing with imprisonment.
If you are a lover of patient, quality interaction, you will find enjoyment here. This film does not devalue its devices by dictating that one is a medium simply for the other to exist. When watching Down by Law, I did not sense that the characters were represented in the film merely for quality dialogue to occur. Indeed the characters’ roles as prisoners were significant.
This film immediately brings to mind social interactions where two people are having a conversation yet only one is actually speaking. The person speaking may be simultaneously building up possible responses internally, but to what end?
To me, Down by Law is the silent person in the above situation and the viewer asks more questions of the film than necessary. In addition to these external questions, I believe questions of one’s own viewership may also arise. Viewers have techniques as much as filmmakers have techniques. Down by Law is a work to be viewed by its creators, as much as by its audience. The dual observance gives an even ground for both the viewer and the creator to exist. There are not rules dictated by the filmmaker. Calling to mind Henry Rollins’ comment that “once you go on tour, you become a cover band of yourself,” everyone—both the creators and the viewers—have to be focused on the observance at some point. This approach helps eliminate any notion that the viewer has missed something.
Life makes obvious that there is not always one way to get things done. In many fields: sports, music, film-making, writing, teaching, etc, it comes down to cohesiveness between all parties. There are many relationships at work, and oftentimes there can be static that disrupts the flow of energy between the storyteller, the characters, and the viewers. This static can manifest itself many ways but the goal should always be to remain cognizant only of what is given to you. At times figuring out a mystery or solving the conflict, can lessen the overall intended effect of the film.
In movie making, throwing a bunch of money at a project can succeed and can fail. There are many people who enjoy the Christopher Nolan’s world of Batman, just as people speculate about what Darren Aronofsky would do with that same premise. In the world at large, you do not always have the luxury to be an advocate for multiple sides, but in art there is that possibility. It is interesting to me to talk to someone who dislikes something I have enjoyed, or feels strongly about something that I have yet to experience. The great thing about people continuing to have access to many films would be the furthering of interpretation of tastes and ideas. The worst thing you get out of Down by Law is a good discussion afterwards. Take it for what it is.
Words: BJ Rochinich