Fishing With John

Fishing With John

A part of this view­ing list: Criterion Collection Spine #42: John Lurie’s Fishing With John.

As a fish­er­man, watch­ing Fishing with John was quite an ex­pe­ri­ence. Walleye and pike are on­ly men­tioned once, by Tom Waits; the rest of the time the fish­ing was much more ex­ot­ic than what a Midwesterner like me is used to. However, through­out most episodes, you’re lucky to see more than one [usu­al­ly tiny] fish. The en­joy­ment comes from the over the top nar­ra­tion and the con­found­ed as­pects of John Lurie’s celebri­ty [read ‘bud­dies’] guests. A cou­ple of them [name­ly Waits and Willem Dafoe] ac­tu­al­ly seem to know a thing or two about fish­ing.

John Lurie & Jim Jarmusch

Most of the rest of the time is de­vot­ed to hi­jinks of one sort or an­oth­er, usu­al­ly at the ex­pense of both the lo­cals, Lurie & his co­horts. They send up the mys­tic man­ner­isms of the sea­soned fish­er­man by do­ing a fish dance and ex­pe­ri­ence all man­ner of trou­ble ac­tu­al­ly get­ting to where the fish are sup­posed to be, but I get the sense that, de­spite the put-up­on bum­bling, every­one ac­tu­al­ly en­joyed the fish­ing.

Tom Waits puts a fish in his pants.

The way the lo­cals from around the world are treat­ed trou­bled me a bit, es­pe­cial­ly be­cause they don’t seem to know that they’re the butt of the jokes. I def­i­nite­ly got a “we’re id­iot American tourist” vibe from the Lurie, Matt Dillon, et al. but I can’t tell whether even that is de­lib­er­ate or not. The episodes tread a few fine lines, script­ed ver­sus im­pro­vi­sa­tion­al, with a dif­fi­cult bland­ly tan­gen­tial hu­mor, and non-ob­vi­ous­ness seems to be the goal of most of the episodes. It is easy to feel a bit of fremd­schä­men through­out the se­ries. I wouldn’t say these episodes are for every­one. I prob­a­bly wouldn’t have en­joyed them if I hadn’t had a fish­ing back­round (and fa­mil­iar­i­ty with fish­ing shows). If you’re a fan of Jim Jarmush, John Lurie, or Tom Waits, Fishing with John is prob­a­bly right up your al­ley though.

John Lurie & Willem Dafoe