FISHING WITH JOHN

A review of an obscure indie film (courtesy of HuluPlus’ choice selection of films from the Criterion Collection), some film history & Eric Michael Kochmer. Read on to find out why indie filmmakers should care. Every #TBT.

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“Fishing with John”  (TV Series) directed by John Lurie (6 Episodes) Color

To the crazy bastard stuido executive at IFC that green-lit “Fishing With John”: THANK YOU, SIR! THANK YOU SO SO MUCH!”

“Fishing with John,” is probably one of the strangest cable shows to be released. Really. This is the strangest fucking show you’ll ever watch. It has nothing to do with quality. In fact it looks like shit. That’s the point. Its ugly, like cable travelogue shows all are, but the twist here is, the director/creator/star is John Lurie. And John really knows nothing about fishing. And this is why its fascinating that he has a television show about it.

First off, who the hell is John Lurie? John Lurie is an actor/writer/director/jazz musician, probably best known for playing the leading roles in Jim Jarmusch’s films: “Stranger than Paradise” and “Down By Law” and a small part in Jarmusch’s debut “Permanent Vacation”. His personality is a mixture of bored and pissed off. His natural delivery is kind of off-the-cuff and slightly uninterested. His acting career never fishinggarnered him more than a few bit parts following his run with Jaramusch. His music career has spanned from “The Lounge Lizards” to the present day “The John Lurie Orchestra”. He composed the music for Conan O’Brien’s talk show back in the ’90’s. Oh, and he is also a bit of an abstract painter. So the guy has been around, maybe not a star, but stars know him and respect his interesting talents.

The show has the look of every other travelogue show preceding and following it: boring. Not in a bad way, but travelogue shows aren’t exactly looking to get more of a following than “Sopranos” or “Madmen”. The definition is: a lecture, slide show or motion picture about an geographical area. The show has a formal presentation of the classic travel show along with the same type of classic boring narration. Where it differs is the narration keeps the usual tone, but the copy is satirizing that of the usual travel show (if that makes any sense). I don’t know the point of the show and I don’t really think John has a point to the show other than it was probably a great time. His guests and he seem to be going on a constant fun vacation/adventure.

The series goes like this:

The short lived series starts with John hunting sharks with Jim Jarmusch. This is a great tone setter for the short lived series. We get the picture within the first ten minutes of John and Jim bumbling around with handguns and sandwiches: this is going to be a treat. Add that with a very formed and silent (and sometimes verbal) look from Jarmusch of “I don’t fucking care”. This episode is a instant classic.

The second show guest stars the great Tom Waits, as they fish in Jamaica. Mostly, this episode is John and Tom arguing in a boat. I think in real life they didn’t talk for a few weeks after the shooting. The sound track is fun.

The third show guest stars a young Matt Dillon and they have a epic adventure in the jungle. This is the first episode where un-real things happen in the series.

fishing with johnThe fourth show (and possibly best episode) guest stars the always committed and believable, Willem Dafoe, as they ice fish in Alaska. This is probably the best conceived episode, and honestly talking to other fans of the show, most will agree that this is the best. This is the episode where Lurie most commits to his premise and tone of the show. Dafoe and him are friends going ice-fishing in Maine and are counting on catching their food. When this doesn’t happen they only have crackers to survive on for days. It becomes desperate. This episode is perfect. You never believe what is happening is real but you keep on watching because you want to see if they really will die. Weird. Kind of great. Kind of.

The fifth and six shows are John and Dennis Hopper chasing a giant squid in Thailand. There’s never anything wrong with watching Dennis Hopper in the midst of a intense sugar rush.

And that was all the time they gave him. Years later IFC started re-running it and it developed a cult following for obvious reasons (because it’s hilarious and random) and then Criterion decided to immortalize it. Bless them.

And … If I ever have an opportunity to meet that executive… I’d pitch him. I’d pitch him real good.