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Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai Criterion Blu-ray Review

“Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai” is one of Jim Jarmusch’s best films.

Written and directed by indie film legend Jim Jarmusch, “Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai” is a deceptively simple story about a Zen hitman (the titular Ghost Dog) who does jobs for a gangster (Louie) that once saved his life. At the beginning of the film, Ghost Dog is assigned to take out a gangster (Handsome Frank), but, unbeknownst to him, there is a woman present. He spares her life, but the gangsters want Ghost Dog out of the picture to eliminate any loose ends. Alas, the cartoon watching small time gangsters know little about Ghost Dog and they also don’t know how much of a professional he really is. Elsewhere in the story, we learn about Ghost Dog’s life outside of work as he spends time with pigeons, reading, and meeting his friends Raymond (a French ice cream man who doesn’t speak English) and a young girl who loves literature (Pearline).

I mentioned “Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai” being deceptively simple because, well, it is. The main story itself is straight forward, but there is a lot going on underneath the surface of this film as Jarmusch explores honor, friendship, violence, race, nature, art, change and cultures. Even more miraculous than that is the fact that the subjects within ‘Ghost Dog” feel as fresh and relevant as it did 21 years ago during the initial release date. Talk about foresight. 

Speaking of Jarmusch, the cult filmmaker is in top form here. Even though moments of this film are a departure from his previous work (namely the gangster story elements and shootouts),Jarmusch maintains his quirky poetic style, artistry, and distinctly unique pacing. As always, he makes the film his own even when diving into a new genre.

‘Ghost Dog’ is primarily Forest Whitaker’s movie and the actor certainly gives one of his best and most introspective performances. Isaach de Bankole (Raymond) and Camille Windbush (Pearline) also deserve a lot of credit here as the scenes with them and Ghost Dog are among the most memorable. It would be fascinating to see a follow-up movie focusing on those two characters to be honest.

You know I’m not going to end this review without talking about RZA’s score. The Wu-Tang Clan musician manages to add so much to the film with his stirring atmospheric music. Music has always played an important role in Jarmusch’s films and it’s never more evident than with ‘Ghost Dog.’

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 1.85:1 1080p. How does it look? After years of waiting for a Blu-ray edition, Criterion has graciously put out a hi-def release with a crisp 4K restoration. Fans of the film will not be disappointed by this upgrade.

Audio Track: 5.1 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? From RZA’s grand score to the dialogue, this track is a winner.
Extras:
* A mini booklet with excerpts from “Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai.”
* A thick booklet featuring credits, photos, essays by authors Jonathan Rosenbaum and Greg Tate, an interview with Jim Jarmusch
* Trailer
* 5 ½ minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes
* “Flying Birds: The Music Of Ghost Dog”- A nearly 15 minute interview with RZA.
* A 5 ½ minute interview with the founder of the USA Shaolin Temple, Shifu Shi Ya Ming
* A minute interview with casting director Ellen Lewis who talks about working with Jarmusch and her career.
* 2 sets of archival interview pieces with Jim Jarmusch, RZA and Forest Whitaker
* A 26 minute video conference call between Forest Whitaker, Isaach De Bankole, and moderator/film scholar Michael B. Gillespie.
* A newly recorded Q&A with Jim Jarmusch in which he answers fan questions. Easily the best of the extras.
* Isolated music score.

November 16, 2020 - Posted by | Blu-Ray review | , , , , ,

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