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Archive for November 2nd, 2016

ghost-dog-1

 © 2016 by James Clark

Though the three early films by Jim Jarmusch—Stranger than Paradise, Down by Law and Mystery Train—provide so many laughs that the mere reading of the titles comes to us as a shot of merriment, with the quite emphatic Night on Earth and subsequent Dead Man the pain that is the populace asserts itself in an exponentially severe and transformational way. Arguably the first test run with a view to dynamic viability on that rocky road is Ghost Dog (1999), seemingly infused with the sense of millennial showdown. There we find, at the outset, the eponymous central figure leaving at dark a shack which he calls home on the rooftop of a Rust Belt hulk to (in the capacity of a contract killer) exterminate someone from out of that sea of annoyances rendering planet Earth, to all intents and purposes, a perpetual night.

However, it is not the darkness of this action which most effectively touches us. No, the first figure we meet is a buoyantly soaring large bird (all but hawk-like), its dark coloration punctuating a not-quite-black, unlimited sky and then tracing a course over a cluttered industrial area of a city, probably that gold mine of the gross, Cleveland, but having licence plates reading, for the sake of global reach, “The Industrial State.” The big bird, soon seen to be a very appropriate pigeon, is (as with wild beasts across the board here) an undiluted joy sustained by the musical uncanniness of luminary RZA, who, like the rest of his band, Wu- Tang Clan, constitutes an electronic river of rhythm and melancholy—assertive and unassertive— (and goes so far, as we shall specify, to dip, rapper-style, into the ultra-obscure 1950s ballad, “Man in a Raincoat”). Hieing to Ghost Dog’s aerie, which we find to be a pigeon sanctuary of sorts, the only-seemingly random sprite ushers in for us the woeful state of the shelter, with its adjacent rickety coop. Nevertheless, we are promptly given to understand that much more than squalor is occurring. The cooing of the birds gives way to a study of sorts where we are introduced to the protagonist at a kind of peace with life in reading (with a quiet and ardent inner voice) a text clearly of great importance and satisfaction to him, namely the Hagakure, that Bible of ancient samurai warriors. The thrust of this treasure is pure hawk, with no signs of pigeon. (Or not yet.) “The way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day, when one’s body and mind are at peace… And every day without fail one should consider himself as dead. This is the substance of the way of the Samurai.” (more…)

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