Diary

Suitably Grotesque

19 May 2006 | Diary

My copy of the latest Idler arrived yesterday. I’m chuffed to see how suitably and marvelously grotesque is the artwork accompanying my article.

To be honest, I was surprised that they went to the effort of having so much art done for it. There are three full-page illustrations involved; each one depicting a person shedding their professional veneers in the forms of rubbery, besuited and soulless skins.

I don’t know the artist (B. P. Berry) but he or she has done a super job. Three cheers for B. P.!

In other news, I watched Jim Jarmusch’s fairly super Ghost Dog this morning. The soundtrack by RZA is superb and there is some wonderfully moving and funny stuff in it. I hate it when webloggers pretend to be film critics and I vow not to do it too often, but sometimes you enjoy a film so much, you just want to talk about it and Ghost Dog for me was one of those.

Perhaps my favourite motif is Ghost Dog’s relationship with a Haitian ice cream salesman. The ice cream man speaks French while Ghost Dog speaks only American English so neither of them understand a word the other is saying. It makes you wonder how they became friends in the first plce and why they both persist in this relationship. It’s not even as though they are just casual acquaintances either: both describes the other as his best friend.

Perhaps the film is telling us that conversation isn’t all it cracked up to be and the really important element in friendship is being together and keeping good company. Ghost Dog and Ice Cream guy just play chess and hang out together and show each other amazing things (including a neighbour who is slowly building a large wooden boat on the roof of his New Jersey apartment building despite being miles away from the water or even the ground – he’s clearly a modern day Noah).

Another excellent motif is the constant presence of cartoons. The smalltime mobsters Ghost Dog is involved with are forever watching Felix the Cat and Bettie Boop with expressions of quite serious concentration on their faces. Strangely, one of the cartoons they watch is The Itchy and Scratchy Show: a fact which has some serious ramifications in terms of intertextuality. Ghost Dog also wears white gloves, which kinda make him resemble and old-style Warner Bros or Disney cartoon a la Micky Mouse and he can be repeatedly shot and theoretically dismembered (much like a cartoon) due to his spiritual Samurai abilities.

The one thing that annoyed me slightly about Ghost Dog was the use of the Noble Savage stock character. I mean Ghost Dog is much more than that of course, but the fact that he’s an educated and gentle guy, encouraging kids to read books while simultaneously being a wild and casual murderer is a little annoying and reminds one of the horribly racist P. T. Barnum sideshow character, What is it?. I never had Jim Jarmusch pegged as a guilty liberal but I guess 9/11 has a lot to answer for in terms of New York film making.

Blah Blah Blah. Half-baked critique over and out.



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