Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 22, 2024 5:11 pm 
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Stalled writer on a Cape Cod residency gets spooky help

The first book by Guy Laury (Jay Duplass), a slim autobiographical volume entitled Lost Child, was a success. He has written nothing in the eight years since its publication. Someone called Mark at his publisher sends him to a residency on a Cape Cod island, his own house; later Mark forgets he has done this. Maybe now he will get something going.

Guy does what writers at solitary residencies do. He jogs. He hangs out at a local bar. He connects with the lady bartender (Lucy? Lena Hudson) and spends time at the local library where the appealing librarian, Julie (Maria Dizzia) is a great admirer of Lost Child. He also actually writes (He apparently has internet and a printer, though he complains of the cell phone service.) And the writing goes great. In a few days a stack of pages accumulates, which he also emails to his editor, who is delighted. But is he the one doing the writing? Some prolific female writer had a residency here long before: we see her hands tap tap tapping on a Smith Corona electric portable.

You have ghosts - this island has lots of them, and spirits of lonely sailor's widows - and you have writers. So what do you get? Ghostwriters acquires a new meaning in Thomas Matthews' witty, pensive little film, which teams with voices and voiceovers, jump cuts to unexplained interviews, and a female voice mockingly describing the protagonist's plight.

Worse than ghosts perhaps are jealous writers, and there is one around, Martin (Thomas Jay Ryan), who has published multiple books. Guy visits Martin. It does not go well. It seems there is not room for two writers on this little island. The muses are fickle and might abandon Martin for Guy. But wait - this is isn't just any Cape Cod island. It's Nantucket, which figures in Melville's Moby Dick, though he did not visit it until after the book was published. Its association with writing is both happy - and haunted.

Ghostwritten has its own sound and look, an ultra-busy artisanal black-and-white aesthetic: you have to go with it or you will be driven crazy by the nagging sound and hyper-active editing. At times it feels like a music video that has turned into a bad dream. If you do go with it, there is a tale here, of murder and a lost manuscript and ghost writing taking on a new meaning.

Even after getting used to it, I still found the style a little overwhelming, and wished the filmmakers had lost nine minutes off the beginning, which seem part of another story, and worked harder to round out the ending. But Ghostwritten surely may have some appeal for fans of indie horror with a New England angle. If you liked Robert Eggers' Lighthouse, you might like this.

Thomas Matthews is an actor who was in the cast of David O. Russell's American Hustle. Behind the camera, he previously co-directed the 2019 feature Lost Holiday with Michael Kerry Matthews.

Ghostwritten, 109 mins., originally released in 2019, showed at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival last year. It will be released on demand by Cranked Up Feb. 9, 2024. Rent Ghostwritten on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, or buy it on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video.

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