Ghostbox Cowboy
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Ghostbox Cowboy

Wild West capitalism hits the Far East with a vengeance in documentarian John Maringouin’s adventuresome first narrative feature, “Ghostbox Cowboy.” This original if sometimes befuddling vision blurs the line between fiction and documentary elements, conventional storytelling and improvisational collage, all to oft-bracing effect. Starring indie-cinema regulars David Zellner and Robert Longstreet as Yank hustler-entrepreneurs wading into the financially frenetic waters of the People’s Republic, it’s a freewheeling absurdist parable that might be dubbed “Fear and Loathing in the Chinese Economic Miracle.”

Though by its very nature somewhat uneven and unwieldy, what Maringouin has wrought here has a kind of exhilarating chaos to it, something comparable to relatively few prior films. Alexsey German’s just-restored 1998 “Khrustalvoy, My Car!” and the prime-time Fellini of “8 1/2” come to mind as similar phantasmagorias of modernity’s institutions run amuck. (You could also cite Richard Kelly’s “Southland Tales,” but there, ambition outpaces grasp.)

Appropriately for the era it depicts, “Ghostbox” has a much more jittery, digital aesthetic than those movies, as if shot on a camera phone. (According to the director, what was actually used were “hacked DSLR cameras” sufficiently resembling phones to enable guerilla-style shooting in public settings.) But that’s not to say it’s some sort of unwatchable amateurish hash. Indeed, there’s so much information onscreen — particularly in the complex sound design — and buried in the cryptic tale, some spectators will seek repeat viewings to better unpack the dense layers of sense and nonsense here.

Duration: 90 min

Release:

IMDb: 6.2

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Ghostbox Cowboy
Ghostbox Cowboy