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