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