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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 6/8/99

Fishing with John
1992 (1999) - Lagarto Productions (Criterion)

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Criterion's Fishing with John Film Rating: B

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A-, B+, B+

Specs and Features

147 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch), Amaray keep case packaging, commentary track with writer/director/host John Lurie, Big Heart video by John Lurie and The Lounge Lizards, animated film-themed menu screens with music, episode access (6 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0), subtitles: none

Reality is funny, but sometimes staged reality is funnier. That can say much about Fishing With John, the pseudo-fishing show created by jazz genius John Lurie, and originally airing on Bravo/Independent Film Channel. The idea behind the show, is that Lurie (along with some of his friends, including Jim Jarmusch, Willem Dafoe, Tom Waits, Matt Dillion and Dennis Hopper) goes on exotic fishing trips to talk about life and, uhm... well not much else really. What comes out, is something that I think ranks among the funniest video filmmaking I've ever seen. Call it an exercise in stupidity. These are some of the stupidest people you'll ever watch. Or are they? I'm not gonna give out any secrets, but watch the six episodes collected here, and then watch them with the Lurie commentary, and you'll begin the see the man behind the curtain. Let me just say, that I was shocked at what I heard....

This Criterion Collection disc is a bit of a different direction for their DVDs. I'm glad they are spicing up their line with some stuff that isn't just restorative films on disc -- they really found a gem with this series. I really enjoyed Fishing with John a lot. It's very entertaining, incredibly funny, and so simplistic and natural, it borders on surreal. I think the funniest things are best illustrated by the Dennis Hopper episodes, where, for no reason whatsoever, Dennis Hopper's laugh is played over visuals. It's dumb, but it works. I do, however, have to state that the absolute best element of these shows is the voiceover narration by Robb Webb. It defies any explanation, other than to say that it's perfect. Yes, I would like a bite of your sandwich.

The discs themselves are simple. The video footage adapts nicely to DVD, with no noise, and some of the videography is incredible. The colors are bright, and the vistas are wonderful. The sound is a simple stereo track that serves the medium well. It's all very well-rounded. The extras are nice, too -- even if there isn't that much included. On top of the above mentioned Lurie commentary track (which is very informative, if you liked the shows themselves), there is a music video showing Lurie's jazz band The Lounge Lizards at work.

Fishing With John is a wonderful little "thing". I keep wanting to call it a movie, but it's not. I don't want to label it simply as television, because it's not that either. Fishing With John is stupid, plain and simple -- but it's so much fun, I'm calling it my guilty pleasure for the first half of 1999.

Todd Doogan
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