I DON'T CARE how much you hate what Roberto Benigni has become, you're going to love him when you see his first, great American movie. Jim Jarmusch's 1986 Down by Law looks stunning on this double-disc set. Benigni plays an accidental killer sharing a New Orleans cell with ex-DJ Tom Waits and ex-pimp John Lurie. The real star is the nimble cinematography of Robby Mller, who shot most Jarmusch films and Breaking the Waves. In his interview, he says Jarmusch told him the key to the story is, "It's just like a fairy tale."
There is that kind of enchantment as the camera repeatedly pans from left to right across New Orleans' film-noir streetscapes (aboard a station wagon with the back door down and the tires half-deflated) and eerily beautiful swampscapes (aboard a deer-hunter's boat with a nearly silent motor). Waits is great and Lurie OK as escapee jailbirds, but Benigni rules through his jovial butchery of English, which he was just learning in real life. In his droll commentary, Jarmusch says Waits told Benigni the word for "pee" was "to flame," and Benigni believed him.
The Mller interview is filmed; Jarmusch's is just audio (there's no image when you listen), but it's usefully indexed in 29 "chapters" and insightful. He answers questions from the Internet (his favorite is from Seattle). The deleted scenes deserve to be, but they shed light, especially the alternate (inferior) ending. The Cannes film fest interview with a stoned yet sharp Jarmusch and company is fun, as is the Waits video.
FUN FOR KIDS is Ice Age, arriving on two discs with deleted scenes, games, and a new comic short starring Scrat (We love Scrat! Give us more Scrat!). Also out Nov. 26, Lovely & Amazing boasts Catherine Keener but, alas, no extras. The prison boxing drama Undisputed was overlooked at the box office, while XXX's Asia Argento allows you to look at a whole lot more of her body in Scarlet Diva. Eddie Izzard fans can check out his Dress to Kill performance disc; Marilyn Monroe fans may appreciate The Making of the Misfits. For those building a library, Paramount is bringing out a big fat Billy Wilder collection containing Sunset Blvd., Stalag 17, and Sabrina. Otherwise, avoid Men in Black II at all costs.