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I was just entering my senior year of high school when Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World was released and proved to be one of the most formidable films of my adolescence. Based on the Daniel Clowes comic book series, the film seemed to be speaking directly to me, a self-perceived disenfranchised youth who hated authority and loved everything odd and kitsch. This is during a time that my friends and I were first discovering the wonders of cinema, and Ghost World was one of my gateway drugs.
Despite having such a rabid love for this film, it’s been well over a decade since I last experienced it; watching it again for its new release on Criterion Blu-ray, I was both excited and a little concerned. What if the movie hasn’t held up in the 16 years since its release? What if my movie preferences have changed so much over the years that I can no longer appreciate this film that made me realize why I love film so much?
Thankfully, these concerns were nullified when, after about five minutes in, I realized that the movie does hold up and it’s still a wonderful piece of filmmaking that, instead of speaking to me about how things are, it speaks to me about how they once were. It’s a glorious nostalgia trip that brings me fondly back to the days when I would skip school on a Tuesday that a highly anticipated release would be gracing the shelves of my local Hollywood Video.
For those uninitiated, Ghost World follows the lives of two recent high-school grads, played by Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch, as they enter the real world and struggle to find their identities in a world that they don’t necessarily feel like they’re a part of. Punctuated with an amazing soundtrack and costume design, the film captures teen angst in a creative, heartfelt and comical way, transcending the norms of the typical coming-of-age story.
As with most Criterion Collection releases, this is the definitive edition of the film, with a gorgeous restored 4k digital transfer and a bevy of special features. There’s an audio commentary featuring Zwigoff, Clowes and producer Lianne Halfon; new interviews about the making of the film with Scarlett Johansson, Thora Birch and Illeana Douglas; an extended clip from Gumnaam, the film featured in the opening title sequence; deleted scenes; and the film’s trailer. The latter three features were part of the original DVD release, but the interviews are new and very interesting. It would have been nice to see interviews with Terry Zwigoff, Daniel Clowes and maybe Steve Buscemi, but what’s here is still solid.
In addition, there’s a 37-page booklet and a separate insert containing selections from Clowes’ original comic book – a solid bonus and hopefully something that will garner more readers of Daniel Clowes’ brilliant work.
One of the only complaints I’ve ever had about Criterion is that they have too few contemporary films in their roster, so Ghost World is a welcome addition to their ever-expanding library of greatness.