Friday, December 01, 2006

Ghost World

The subject of adolescent alienation is virtually a storehouse of cliches and sentimental moralizing but Ghost World, based on a comic book of the same name, manages to keep these miles away and tackles it without a single false or jarring note and in such a way that the whole thing becomes not only funny but also genuinely insightful, even moving in the ending. Enid and Rebecca have just graduated from high school and are basically female versions of Holden Caulfield. Enid, wonderfully played by Thora Birch is angrier, wittier and more misanthropic than her friend Rebecca, played by Scarlet Johansson (thankfully, unlike her regular roles she doesn't try to act "hot" here) who seems to have prepared herself better for the grown-up world (she is also prettier that might be another reason). They spend their time poking fun at both the go-getters as well as the losers that they see around them. They soon meet a fellow alienated loner, an eccentric old record collector, played with his natural dorkiness by Steve Buscemi, and soon the practical joke they play on him turns serious and all of them learn some vital lessons about life and about themselves in the end. Here is a sample review from village voice and more here.

The film also has a Bollywood connection which really amused me. The soundtack of the film features, rather prominently I think, a song from an old Hindi movie Gumnaam. It is called "Jaan Pehchaan Ho..." and you absolutely have to see it if you haven't seen it. It is a wonderful and an absolutely freak-out song. If you don't understand Hindi, don't despair. The song basically says, "If we could get to know each other, life would be easy" :)

Anyway, here's the song. I am sure, like me, you will also feel like giving the girl a good neck massage after watching it. I like the guy singing even more.

Sadly I don't remember much of the movie, though I remember watching and loving it many years ago. It is based on an Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None (I didn't know about it until recently). Of course, in the best Bollywood traditions she goes uncredited. I haven't read the book, but I am sure she wouldn't have, even in her wildest dreams, imagined the character that Mehmood plays in the movie. And it is for his character and the song filmed on him, "Hum Kale Hain..." ("What if I am dark, I have a heart") that the film is most remembered now. I like this song from the movie too. It is kinda kitschy but nice.

And yes, the trailer of Ghost World here. I am spending a lot of time on youtube.

18 comments:

wildflower seed said...

Zwigoff is one of my favorite new directors. You need to see Bad Santa next.

Yes, and that Rafi intro is nothing short of genius.

Alok said...

I hadn't seen any of Zwigoff's films before. I have heard of Bad Santa, will check out soon.

Glad, you liked that song :)

wildflower seed said...

Also to be noted : this is a Shankar-Jaikishen composition. A lot of people think R.D.Burman invented this style of music. But S-J were there first!

Love that skeletal funk guitar. :)

Alok said...

True. The duo also composed many of those Shammi Kapoor's Elvis style songs in the early sixties...

Cheshire Cat said...

vqyxddYeah, I loved this movie too. I believe this was one of Scareltt Johansson's earliest roles, predating her "starlet" phase. She's terrific in it.

The American independent comedy is such a vibrant genre. My other favorites are "Election" and "Nurse Betty".

Antonia said...

hi alok
by the way have you seen wood s lot has linked to you, because of that rubbish Harper's article? So strange wood s lot likes the article...such a nice blog in general and then this..- not the link to you, but to this article...

Alok said...

I hadn't seen it. thanks! they had linked to the Sebald reviews that I had put here earlier too.

You know, it is very rare that mainstream literary press in the US reviews books by obscure and serious non-anglophone writers. The provincialism and parochialism of literary journalism in UK and US is very depressing. So any review which comes is a big news! May be that's the reason :)

Alok said...

cat: i didn't like scarlet J. too much in the movie. I dont like her in general. she is too "false" for my tastes... :) I liked the other girl more.

I have seen election and absolutely love it. Haven't seen the other one.

Antonia said...

oh ok alok, I didn't know it was so bad about the journalism....but anyway it is nice to be linked to wood s lot.....but on the continent the journalism isn't also alays that good,or if it is, it is not always in english and there you go with all the crazy languages...

Alok said...

and there people like you have an advantage...those who know and are comfortable with many languages :)

Antonia said...

yes maybe, but always a disadvantage of not being a native english speaker while the majorty of dialogues is in english....most of the important stuff is done in english and all the rest at the margins, not that the margins are not important....yet I like it best when there is a messy plurality of all sorts of thinsg...so in the end everything balances, everything has its pros and cons...but you must speak as well more than one language, no?

Alok said...

English is not my native language either. That would be Hindi. I have always wanted to learn more languages but so far haven't done anything about it. There are so many things to do in life... I think learning new languages is really important. It changes the way you look at things and opens up your mind. Even now most of the reading I do is of works translated from languages and cultures that I am not familiar with. And I prefer it that way.

Antonia said...

that looks like a really complicated language :) I always like that, tehse different signs that one cannot read, greek, arabic, kyrillic, one stands before that liek a child that has not yet learnt how to read...I entirely agree with you, it is important to learn new languages and such a gift in a way, for a whole new world opens up to one...I also always think I shouldlearn more languages....so many books and languages and films....beautiful richness of the world :)

Alok said...

Yeah, learning a new script, specially in adulthood, sounds really tough. Specially when, as in Hindi, the script doesn't map one on one to the roman alphabet.

jyothsnay said...

Interesting to read n observe the clip! I loved the tagline "accentuate negative", something ripened with sarcasm and wit. Both the leading characters seemed so realistic (have not see this but felt..could be wrong), truly portraying the crossroadish kind of mindset every adolescent goes through..ah, the pangs, the turnaround,such sweet a pain!
that hindi song clip is too funny..those dancers, the lead girl n the guy/singer in zorro-kind of masks, such a fervor blasts through the neck..haha!
amongst this kind of old hindi songs, I enjoy Mumtaj's "Aaj kal Tere mere pyaar ke churche har jaban par..." immensely...n the most hilarious song that takes away all the accolades is that "teesari munjil"..."aaja aajaa main hu pyara tera..allah, inkar tera.." tried once that free swings of neck, a sense of abandonment just to lie down with a minor pull of muscle!..should watch this movie, certainly as u said, seemed insightful about adolescent life...Jyo

Alok said...

I love those old hindi movie songs of 1950s and 60s. that's the only aspect of bollywood that interests me.

the two girls are realistic in the sense that they dread and despise all kinds of conformism. one of them makes some compromises, which we also call "growing up," the other doesn't and the film ends on a bittersweet note. it is definitely worth checking out...

Tom L said...

also very much worth seeing is his 'Crumb', which would also fit in with your seven deadly sins, especially Lust!

i also thought Scarlet was rather dull in this film, or at least her character was. Steve Buscemi also provides another fine performance here

Alok said...

Yeah I read about Crumb too. Will check it out.

Buscemi is always great. I don't think he needs to act, just watching him is so entertaining... :)