Monday, January 02, 2006


Ghost Dog lives in a rooftop shack with an adjoining pigeon coop. He reads the Hagakure and is devoted to its precepts; unfortunately as retainer to a mob boss who saved his life, Ghost Dog must kill for money. As a professional hit man and urban samurai, he's good at what he does, and maintains his untraceability by only communicating via carrier pigeon. When one hit has an unintended witness, Ghost Dog becomes the hunted, and must resolve a conflict between duties to his Master and to higher moral purposes.

Jim Jarmusch crafts an elegant urban fable using a series of enigmatic juxtapositions: wheezing Italian mob bosses rap Flava Flave riffs, young ghetto girls read Rashomon, a Haitian ice cream vendor and Ghost Dog are best friends who don't speak the same language. All of Ghost Dog's victims watch pertinent cartoons before they get wacked--while prepping to shoot a mob boss from his forested perch, he notes a woodpecker and takes a moment to observe its behavior with aethestic relish. At the same time the mob boss is riding in his limo, watching Woody Woodpecker confront Death on a small TV. My favorite scene shows Italian mob stereotypes, upon hearing Ghost Dog's name, commenting on the strangeness of Native American and hip-hop artists' nicknames. Then the boss says "Get Sammy the Snake and Handsome Frankie." A surprisingly tender and often hilarious film, featuring one of my very favorite actors in a lead role. Check it out--even The RZA soundtrack is great.

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