Friday, August 16, 2013
JEFF OF THE CINEFILES: HALL OF FAME: FILE #0026: GHOST WORLD (2001)
Directed By: Terry Zwigoff
Written By: Terry Zwigoff & Daniel Clowes
Based on The Graphic Novel by: Daniel Clowes
Cinematography By: Alfonso Beato
Editor: Michael R. Miller & Carole Kravetz Aykanian
CAST: Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi, Illeana Douglas, Bob Balaban, Brad Renfro, Teri Garr, David Cross, Pat Healy, Dave Sheridan, Tom McGowan
This is the story of Enid and Rebecca after they finish the high school. Both have problems to be related with people and they spend their time hanging around and bothering creeps. When they met Seymour who is a social outsider who loves to collect old vinyl records, the life of Enid will change forever.
The film has a certain hipness thrust upon it as it is stylish to a certain degree that has a detached deadpan attitude that makes it come off as quirky and cool, but what is admirable is that it's not really trying to do any of this. The film is truly about identity trying to find one and personal definition. The way you think you are and he discovery of who you truly are.
The main characters start off as cynical know it all's, but as the story continues they find that they actually have feelings and things they care about and might be just like the people they used to make fun of.
It deals with the fear it seems that youth has to conform. Though realizing that you must, Even outsiders in their own way do.
The film is a comedy though with a bunch of dramatic moments. Director Terry Zwigoff is telling a simple quirky story but each scene seems filled with possibilities of where it can go so there is always that glimmer of tension in the air of where this could go. then actually does shock or just lets the air out at the end with a simple line and moves onto the Next scene.
The film is Adapted from the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes. The film keeps the framework but changes the stories enough to give the film it's own identity. So that it exists as it's own entity. So even the readers of the graphic novel don't exactly know where it is going. The characters remain the same. So they can revisit the graphic novel and movie and get the same experience of tales in a different yet familiar way.
I saw this film in theaters twice as I loved it the first time. I felt like I missed something the first time and watched It again and still came away with the same admiration. I was happy to see that it wasn't a fluke and the first time I wasn't just riding high on the fumes of the praise for it.
It's a coming of he I'm more about feeling the hardships of post high school life and not exactly going to college and facing the adult world when not everything is going to be handed to you and you can't get away with life with no effort. --Steve Buscemi gives one of his best performances as a guy who is (understated) comfortable in his life until he meets Enid who in trying to make him over ruins his life bit by bit as he becomes more successful. So instead of staying under the radar and not noticeable he becomes more outgoing and is in the public eye so an easier target and has more to lose then before.
By the end they might be soulmates but she has devastated him.
That story line seems like it would be the ultimate fantasy. Snarky innocent young girl falls for a socially awkward older man. He brilliance is that the roles are kind of reversed she is more in control and experienced though not necessarily romantically and he is more the innocent with little to no experience and while it ends with lessons learned. It also feels realistic at how fractured it leaves them both,
The opening sets itself up by showing Enid dancing to an obscure dance number from a 1960's Bollywood film. Full of energy while the camera pans around their neighborhood and in other buildings to see the mundane life of everyone surrounding her in other residences as she is full of fun and excitement. Really the most she shows during the whole film. Showing life goes on no matter if we are having the best or worst times of our lives. It says all of that in a simple amazing moment.
The film continuously shows Thora Birch's Enid as inauthentic as she shows interest in others obsessions, but is not an expert and soon grows bored quickly and moves onto another interest. Not whole heatedly and it's the theme as Steve Buscemi is a interest and while other things are objects. He is a human being, you can't just drop and leave him and everything goes back to normal. No there are consequences as life goes on and moves on. Decisions and actions have consequences.
This is also really one of the last times Thora Birch played a lead in a film, At least a critically acclaimed one. It’s a shame because she shows a gift in her roles of getting to the center of them and truly inhabiting them. She’s quite remarkable here as kind of the Manic Pixie dream f\girl only based in reality and a lot more troublesome.
As she grows closer to Seymour, Enid also grows apart and pulls away from her best friend Rebecca who is becoming different and growing up and not in the same state of suspended youth that Enid is. She is growing into her own separate identity. She's not a follower anymore but an individual.
The fact that all of these issues are ripe throughout the film that seems so simple or like a hip satire is amazing. The character of Seymour is based in part on director Terry Zwigoff. Like Seymour, Zwigoff is an avid collector of 1920's jazz and blues records.
There are several references to other comic strips written and drawn by Daniel Clowes. Most notably, the coffee shop patron in the wheelchair is from Clowes' strip "Feldman" and the "tampon in a teacup" gag is from a strip called "Art School Confidential". Both strips appeared in a comic book called "Eightball" which also contained "Ghost World".
According to director Terry Zwigoff, Steve Buscemi was so uncomfortable playing the role of Seymour that whenever shooting was finished for the day, he would immediately change his clothes so he could look completely different. The character of Seymour appears only as the victim of the girls' prank in the comic and was made significant at Terry Zwigoff's suggestion. Another change includes Rebecca having a rather diminished role compared to her role in the comic, which gave a more balanced amount of attention to both girls.
Now I can see this film as kind of prequel to Zwigoff's other collaboration ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL. Though this film was made first, GHOST WORLD is more of Zwigoff's emotional film so it represents more of the high school years. ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL is more cynic and cold hearted and it's satire represents the college years. I believe his style might be simple due to his past as a documentarian. So he presents he story as bare and simple, While focusing on the characters more. Though the films are still filled with a certain richness and emotions that aren't typically melodramatic an feel more natural. Not Cassavettes natural, but a natural that goes along with the story. He also makes sure it doesn't take on more than it needs to, doesn't overcrowd keeps the story short and sweet.
I will say I originally wanted to see this film as it was being made and described on a website as a tale of aliens watching earth from outer space and deciding to watch over two high school girls graduating from high school as their friendship falls apart using them as a lesson into human nature, relationships and development. it is still good in it's own right.
Enid is a talented artist for example but refuses to really share any of it. Nor actually work on her skills as it would be doing something she loves as work.
The film is good by itself, though the character make such an impression I would love a sequel just to find out what happened to them once we leave them.
The film at first seems pretentious like it will come off as a hipster satire, but as it goes along it shows death and let's you truly See it's character.
Enid's notebook drawings were done by Sophie Crumb, Robert Crumb and Aline Kominsky's daughter (mentioned in closing credits). The production team reached out to Sophie Crumb after Daniel Clowes insisted to Terry Zwigoff that Enid's work had to be created by a female artist (Clowes insisted he should not do the drawings).
The film also has a great soundtrack filled with classic jazz that fits into the films timeless demeanor and off kilter charm.
The films style is remarkable as it uses or thrusts the audience into comedian scenes filled with awkwardness that would become popular almost a decade later in comedy films and sitcoms that rest on it. At the time as it is presented in the film it is jarring and new.
I think it's a good film that should be in your home library and kind of inspirational for women as it shows they can't be the only ones who might be struggling to find themselves, We all are to a degree.
This film isn't Scarlett Johansson's shining moment as she is pushed to the background more and more as the film goes on. She is integral but has little to do.
I love this film for it’s detached style, but full of emotions and sentiment without resulting in melodrama.