CHRIS: Ghost World (Zwigoff, US, 2001)

This film brings together two genres that dominated cinema in the 2000s: the comic book adaptation and the off-beat-indy ‘family in crisis’ movie. Daniel Clowes’ excellent graphic novel, upon which this film is based, is far removed from the clobber-fest super hero fair such as SPIDERMAN (2002) as it is a stark depiction of suburban life and the petty weirdness that can be found in small town America. I was introduced to Clowes’ work through RAW commix which were published in the UK in the early 90s. He has a precise, dead pan, artistic style where the dark comedy is apparent in the silences. The white space emphasises the alienation of the characters.

Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) have graduated from high school. They see a personal ad in the local newspaper, and as a bit of fun, they decide to contact Seymour (Steve Buscemi) and mock him from a distance before Enid becomes to empathise with him and get drawn into his world of middle management and obsessive record collecting. The success or failure of the film depends upon the audience’s relationship with Enid. She’s an easy character to dislike – annoying, bitchy, cruel, cynical, and wears a fetish mask – on the other hand, she’s funny, sensitive, astute and shrewd. The film strikes such a chord because of its understanding of adolescence and the uncertainties that it brings.

Zeigoff cut his teeth on CRUMB (1995). A documentary portrait of the comic book writer/ artist who was an early pioneer of the type of commix that Clowes is the heir. It is a warts and all study of his subconscious, his family and his art and was perfect preparation for his treatment of GHOST WORLD. There are moments in CRUMB where I suspected the artist was swapped with Buscemi!

This is a dark comedy that I return to often as I find something new in every fresh viewing.  The art direction is spot on. I once passed by the opportunity to buy a wind up Enid, one of my biggest regrets and, by the way, whatever happened to Thora Birch?

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