I was 17 when I first saw the movie “Ghost World,” directed by Terry Zwigoff and adapted from the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes. The film was released in 2001 to critical praise and little fanfare at the box office. One of those cool, weird, wonderful films that never plays in a theater anywhere near you.
It wasn’t till the film came out on home video in early 2002 that I saw it–thanks be to Popcorn Video, my hometown video store, for always stocking all kinds of cool, non-mainstream titles that I devoured. The Criterion Collection has released a new blu-ray of “Ghost World”–the first time the film has been released in HD–a blu-ray that was supervised and approved by Terry Zwigoff. It was a great joy to revisit the film for the first time in a number of years.
“Ghost World” is a tale of teenage angst through the eyes of two new high school graduates, Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson). Enid is a misfit and proud of it, barely identifying with anyone else in her class. Enid is cynical about everything, so much so it starts to wear down on Rebecca. Enid finds comfort in a kindred spirit, a sad-loner record collector Seymour (Steve Buscemi), who is many years older than her. “Ghost World” captures that perfect feeling when you’ve graduated from high school, you’re told you’re an adult, but you have no idea what comes next or what’s supposed to happen. Especially if you never felt connected to anyone else you went to school with.
It seems strange to think of 2001 as the “pre-internet” era, but in a way it was. It was before we could connect with everyone so readily and find that we aren’t as alone as we think–which I still hold as the true gift of the internet. As I said I was 17 when I first saw “Ghost World” and the movie hit me right in the emotional breadbox. Also, it’s a very, very funny movie and I loved it the first time I saw it. I immediately clicked with that feeling of looking at everyone else around you and wondering “How in the hell do I belong here?” “Ghost World” is such a fantastic film, with a knockout cast rounded out by Illeana Douglas, Bob Balaban and Terri Garr. All working from a fantastic, Oscar nominated script written by Clowes and Zwigoff.
Criterion’s new blu-ray of “Ghost World” features a 4K digital restoration made from a 35mm interpositive, supervised by Zwigoff. A 5.1 DTS-HD track is included–and it sounds amazing. Bonus features are plenty. A new commentary track with Zwigoff, Clowes, and producer Lianne Halfon is included, as well as new interviews with Birch, Johansson, and Douglas. A full excerpt of the song “Jaan Pehechan Ho” from the Bollywood film “Gumnaam” is included–it’s the number that Enid dances to during the opening credits–optional commentary is provided for the excerpt as well.
People have been clamoring for “Ghost World” to make its blu-ray debut, and Criterion has done an amazing job with the beloved film–the blu-ray features wonderful cover art made especially for the release by Daniel Clowes. “Ghost World” is not the kind of film made for a mainstream audience, and that’s the point. It’s one of those cherished gems that you hold close to your heart. Roger Ebert in his review of the film said “I want to hug this movie” and I do too. This one comes highly, highly recommended. See you next week.