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John Maringouin Ghostbox Cowboy


Ghostbox Cowboy | Review

Ghostbox Cowboy | Review

Damn Sell: Maringouin’s No-Frills Pynchonian Mind-blowing Masterpiece

John Maringouin Ghostbox CowboyUnfolding like a Thomas Pynchon novel, John Maringouin’s latest oeuvre follows an American inventor-of-sorts who gets taken for a ride in an exotic cityscape. Like its characters, this fiction debut manipulates the viewer and takes them on an outlandish trip through China’s underground. There’s a raw, rough around the edges, kinetic energy that tonally matches the Safdie Bros.’ Good Time sans relying on violence to maintain suspense. Altogether disorienting, Ghostbox Cowboy makes for a trippy, mind-blowing experience.

Filmmaker David Zellner plays Jimmy Van Horn, an overly optimistic dolt with a new product called GHOSTR that claims to provide a communication link with dead loved ones. Jimmy actually believes his contraption might work, even though it looks like a cheap toy. Bypassing the QVC route, he heads to China where a tech gold rush has led to a boom in young investors with lots of capital to play with. Jimmy bounces from one meeting to the next, getting passed around by an assembly line of con-men that recognize fresh meat during what one character refers to as, ‘sweaty betrayal season.’ Perhaps not the most obvious comparison, but one that this phrase elicits, is Donald Glover’s Atlanta, whose sophomore effort has been branded ‘Robbin’ season’. The film shares Atlanta’s swindling oddballs, surreal scenarios, and growing sense of paranoia, while being rooted in a specific time and place.

The most deliciously profane of these characters is Bob Grainger, played by Robert Longstreet in fake dentures and a blonde wig. Longstreet is freakishly good in the role, emitting a mix of charm, greed, and goofiness. His energetic performance pops off the screen in a cartoonishly brash manner. Unlike the hyper-stylized Sorry To Bother You, (which shares a producer, George Rush, who makes a cameo here), Ghostbox Cowboy is at times meant to feel like a Vice investigative report. Maringouin balances the cartoonish elements with a vérité style that makes the proceedings, at least at first, feel authentically real. Not withstanding, the abrasive sound design is a key stylistic element here, transporting the audience into a warped alternate reality. Casey Wayne McAllister’s noir-ish, spacey jazz music establishes a hint of genre for an otherwise unclassifiable film.

If Ghostbox Cowboy doesn’t sound gonzo enough, just wait for the wild ending, which takes place in a city of empty condominiums in the Mongolian desert, and involves a stubborn camel and one very bad facelift. Some may have qualms about the low budget aesthetic but its scruffiness is part of its charm. Maringouin throws Jimmy into the deep end, and it’s riveting to watch him navigate the murky waters, at first with exuberance, and then gasping for air.

Reviewed on April 19th at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival – US Narrative Competition. 110 Minutes.



New York City based, Matt Delman contributes coverage for and Hammer To Nail for Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, TIFF and many of the New York festivals and film series. He also runs social media ad campaigns for indie films under his 3rd Impression banner. His top 3 theatrical releases of 2018: Cold War, Eighth Grade, & Bisbee ‘17.

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