Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is a 1999 film about an assassin, Ghost Dog, who follows the ways of the Samurai as outlined in the book Hagakure

  • 1 Ghost Dog
  • 4 Sonny Valerio
  • 9 External links

Ghost Dog [ edit ]

  • The Way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one's body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake, falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one's master. And every day without fail one should consider himself as dead. This is the substance of the way of the samurai. (00:03:05)
  • It is bad when one thing becomes two. One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai. It is the same for anything else that is called a Way. If one understands things in this manner, he should be able to hear about all Ways and be more and more in accord with his own. (00:09:42)
  • If one were to say in a word what the condition of being a samurai is, its basis lies first in seriously devoting one's body and soul to his master. Not to forget one's master is the most fundamental thing for a retainer. (00:15:37)
  • It is a good viewpoint to see the world as a dream. When you have something like a nightmare, you will wake up and tell yourself that it was only a dream. It is said that the world we live in is not a bit different from this. (00:19:43)
  • Among the maxims on Lord Naoshige's wall there was this one: "Matters of great concern should be treated lightly." Master Ittei commented, "Matters of small concern should be treated seriously." (00:23:01)
  • According to what one of the elders said, taking an enemy on the battlefield is like a hawk taking a bird. Even though it enters into the midst of a thousand of them, it gives no attention to any bird other than the one that it has first marked. (00:46:45)
  • In the words of the ancients, one should make his decisions within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break through to the other side. (00:58:04)
  • Even if a samurai's head were to be suddenly cut off, he should still be able to perform one more action with certainty. If one becomes like a revengeful ghost and shows great determination, though his head is cut off, he should not die. (01:04:16)
  • It is good to carry some powdered rouge in one's sleeve. It may happen that when one is sobering up or waking from sleep, a samurai's complexion may be poor. At such a time it is good to take out and apply some powdered rouge. (01:08:50)
  • When one has made a decision to kill a person, even if it will be very difficult to succeed by advancing straight ahead, it will not do to think about going at it in a long roundabout way. The Way of the Samurai is one of immediacy, and it is best to dash in headlong. (01:13:13)
  • Our bodies are given life from the midst of nothingness. Existing where there is nothing is the meaning of the phrase, "Form is emptiness." That all things are provided for by nothingness is the meaning of the phrase, "Emptiness is form." One should not think that these are two separate things. (01:19:32)
  • There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man's whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, there will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. (01:24:29)
  • There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. By doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you will still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to all things. (01:28:40)
  • It is said that what is called "the spirit of an age" is something to which one cannot return. That this spirit gradually dissipates is due to the world's coming to an end. For this reason, although one would like to change today's world back to the spirit of one hundred years or more ago, it cannot be done. Thus it is important to make the best out of every generation. (01:33:15)

Pearline [ edit ]

  • In the Kamigata area they have a sort of tiered lunchbox they use for a single day when flower viewing. Upon returning, they throw them away, trampling them underfoot. The end is important in all things.

Louie [ edit ]

  • Nothing seems to make sense anymore.
  • For the past four years, he's done maybe 12 perfect contracts. Perfect. Like a ghost.

Sonny Valerio [ edit ]

  • Now is the time to tell us everything you know about this mysterious ghostlike untraceable fuckin' button man.

Other [ edit ]

Dialogue [ edit ], taglines [ edit ].

  • All assassins live beyond the law... only one follows the code
  • Live by the code. Die by the code.

Cast [ edit ]

  • Forest Whitaker as Ghost Dog
  • John Tormey as Louie
  • Cliff Gorman as Sonny Valerio
  • Richard Portnow as Handsome Frank
  • Tricia Vessey as Louise Vargo
  • Henry Silva as Ray Vargo
  • Gene Ruffini as Old Consigliere
  • Frank Adonis as Valerio's Bodyguard
  • Victor Argo as Vinny
  • Kenny Guay as Boy in Window
  • Vince Viverito as Johnny Morini

External links [ edit ]

  • Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai quotes at the Internet Movie Database
  • Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai at Rotten Tomatoes

hagakure citation ghost dog

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  • American films
  • Samurai films
  • Films directed by Jim Jarmusch

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Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

  • Ghost Dog : There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.
  • Ghost Dog : It is a good viewpoint to see the world as a dream. When you have something like a nightmare, you will wake up and tell yourself that it was only a dream. It is said that the world we live in is not a bit different from this.
  • Ghost Dog : There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the moment. A man's whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, there is nothing left to do, and nothing else to pursue.
  • Ghost Dog : You know, in ancient cultures, bears were considered equal with men.
  • Hunter : This ain't no ancient culture here, mister.
  • Ghost Dog : Sometimes it is.
  • Pearline : Can't you understand what he's saying?
  • Ghost Dog : No, I don't understand him. I don't speak French, only English. I never understand a word he says.
  • Pearline : And that's your best friend?
  • Ghost Dog : Yeah.
  • [ first lines ]
  • Ghost Dog : The Way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one's body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears, and swords. Being carried away by surging waves. Being thrown into the midst of a great fire. Being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake. Falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease, or committing seppuku at the death of one's master. And every day, without fail, one should consider himself as dead. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai.
  • Ghost Dog : Among the maxims on Lord Naoshige's wall, there was this one: "Matters of great concern should be treated lightly." Master Ittei commented, "Matters of small concern should be treated seriously."
  • Ghost Dog : In the words of the ancients, one should make his decision within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break through to the other side.
  • Sonny Valerio : "If a warrior's head were to be suddenly cut off, he should still be able to perform one more action with certainty." What the fuck does that mean?
  • Ray Vargo : It's poetry. The poetry of war.
  • [ after Vinny shoots a policewoman ]
  • Louie : Jesus, Vinny. You just iced a woman, you know that?
  • Vinny : You know what you are, Louie? You're a fuckin' male chauvinist pig.
  • Louie : What do you mean, I'm a male chauvinist pig? You just shot a broad.
  • Vinny : A cop. I just shot a cop. They wanna be equal? I made her equal.
  • Sonny Valerio : What the fuck is his name?
  • Louie : Ghost Dog.
  • Sonny Valerio : What?
  • Sonny Valerio : Ghost Dog?
  • Old Consigliere : He said Ghost Dog!
  • Louie : Yeah. He calls himself Ghost Dog. I don't know, a lot of these Black guys today, these gangster-type guys, they make up names like that.
  • Ray Vargo : Is that true?
  • Sonny Valerio : Sure. He means like the rappers, you know, All the rappers, they got names like that: Snoop Doggy Dogg, Ice Cube, Q-Tip, Method Man. My favorite was always Flavor Flav from Public Enemy. You got the funky fresh fly flavor.
  • [ rhymes hip-hop verse ]
  • Ray Vargo : I don't know about that, but it makes me think of Indians. They got name like, uhh, Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Running Bear, Black Elk.
  • [ makes elk noise ]
  • Sonny Valerio : Yeah. That kind of shit.
  • Old Consigliere : Yeah. Indians, Niggers, Same thing.
  • [ Ghost Dog storms in and aims his guns at Vargo and his Consigliere ]
  • Old Consigliere : JESUS, IT'S THE FUCKING BIRD MAN!
  • [ has heart attack and dies instead of getting shot ]
  • Samurai in Camouflage : Ghost Dog, power, equality.
  • Ghost Dog : Always see everything, my brother.
  • Ghost Dog : It is said that what is called the Spirit of an Age is something to which one cannot return. That this spirit gradually dissipates is due to the world's coming to an end. In the same way, a single year does not have just spring or summer. A single day, too, is the same. For this reason, although one would like to change today's world back to the spirit of one hundred years or more ago, it cannot be done. Thus it is important to make the best out of every generation.
  • Vinny : You know, Louie, there's one good thing about this Ghost Dog guy.
  • Louie : What's that, Vin?
  • Vinny : He's sending us out the old way. Like real fucking gangsters.
  • Ghost Dog : Our bodies are given life from the midst of nothingness. Existing where there is nothing is the meaning of the phrase "Form is emptiness." That all things are provided for by nothingness is the meaning of the phrase "Emptiness is form." One should not think that these are two separate things.
  • [ last lines ]
  • Pearline : In the Kamigata area, they have a sort of tiered lunchbox they use for a single day when flower viewing. Upon returning, they throw them away, trampling them underfoot. The end is important in all things.
  • Louie : Goddamn it. You fucking shot me in the same exact place as last time!
  • Ghost Dog : I'm your retainer. I don't mean you no disrespect. Sorry, I don't want to put too many holes in you.
  • Ghost Dog : When one has made a decision to kill a person, even if it will be very difficult to succeed by advancing straight ahead, it will not do to think about doing it in a long, roundabout way. One's heart may slacken, he may miss his chance, and by and large there will be no success. The Way of the Samurai is one of immediacy, and it is best to dash in headlong.
  • Ghost Dog : According to what one of the elders said, taking an enemy on the battlefield is like a hawk taking a bird. Even though it enters into the midst of a thousand of them, it gives no attention to any bird than the one it first marked.
  • Ghost Dog : Even if one's head were to be suddenly cut off, he should be able to do one more action with certainty. With martial valor, if one becomes like a revengeful ghost and shows great determination, though his head is cut off, he should not die.
  • Louie : Jesus Christ. You just shot Morini. He was Valerio's fucking brother-in-law.
  • Ghost Dog : He had a gun. He was going to shoot you.
  • Louie : What?
  • Ghost Dog : See if he's dead.
  • Louie : Well, I don't think he's getting any older.
  • Ghost Dog : It is bad when one thing becomes two. One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai. It is the same for anything that is called a Way. If one understands things in this manner, he should be able to hear about all ways and be more and more in accord with his own.
  • Louise Vargo : This is my book.
  • Louie : No, it isn't. I got it off from the dead guy, Ghost Dog.
  • Louise Vargo : It takes place in feudal Japan.
  • [ Louie is surprised and speechless ]
  • Louise Vargo : It's a really good book. You should read it.
  • Nobody : [ after a mobster shoots his pigeon ] Stupid fuckin' white man!
  • Ghost Dog : Everything around us seems to be changing, huh, Louie?
  • Louie : You can say that again.
  • [ interviewing Louie for information about Ghost Dog ]
  • Sonny Valerio : Where's he live?
  • Louie : Fuck, if I know. That's the next strange thing. I mean, I can't just call him up. Instead, he contacts me every day through a bird.
  • Sonny Valerio : Did you just say he contacts you through a bird? Did I just hear you say that?
  • Ghost Dog : If one were to say in a word what the condition of being a samurai is, its basis lies first in seriously devoting one's body and soul to his master.
  • Louie : Nothing seems to make sense anymore.
  • Ghost Dog : Night Nurse? You actually read that?
  • Pearline : No. I just like the cover.
  • Sonny Valerio : Did you just say he contacts you through a fucking bird?
  • Ray Vargo : What particular species of bird?
  • Ray Vargo : Did you try to follow the bird? Put a bug on it? Anything like that?
  • Louie : No, I never had a reason to do anything like that. Like I said I realize that the arrangement I made with this guy is pretty weird, but he's always shown me complete respect.
  • Sonny Valerio : Well, a whole new century is coming, Louie, and Mr. Vargo wants every member of his family to make a priority to erase this weirdo.
  • Louie : This guy is a professional. Go after him can be very dangerous.
  • Sonny Valerio : Handsome Frank was one of us so now we're gonna peel this nigger cap back. Better him than you, right Louie?
  • [ Deleted scene; accountant exits after sharing some bad news ]
  • Ray Vargo : [ stunned ] Is he gay?
  • Sonny Valerio : He drives a Porsche...
  • Old Consigliere : He's gay!
  • Louie : For the past four years, he's done, maybe, twelve perfect contracts. Perfect, Like a ghost.
  • Johnny Morini : I'm sorry we're late, Mr. Vargo. Sonny! Mr. Bonaccelli here was delayed on his way over.
  • Sonny Valerio : Sit down. Johnny, why don't you step outside, have yourself a smoke?
  • Johnny Morini : Sure, Sonny. Mr. Vargo!
  • Sonny Valerio : We got a really big problem here, Louie. It seems like you're directly responsible for it. Your mystery man fucked up.
  • Louie : But Morini told me he put the girl... Mr. Vargo's daughter on the bus.
  • Sonny Valerio : He did, but she got off the bus and went to Handsome Frank's house.
  • Louie : You wanted Handsome Frank whacked. So he got whacked. From outside. I set it all up, no traces, no nothing. Morini said that she was on the bus, but, Jesus, I mean he's lucky he didn't do her too, right?
  • Ray Vargo : If he had, you would be fucking dead.
  • Sonny Valerio : This is not a good situation, Louie.
  • Louie : Where is she now? I mean, is she all right?
  • Sonny Valerio : Don't worry about Mr. Vargo's daughter. What we need to do is eliminate the scumbag who whacked Frank. Frank was one of us. His killer needs to be neutralized. Erased from the face of the planet.
  • Louie : For the past four years this guy's done, maybe, twelve perfect contracts. Perfect. Like a ghost. He's very valuable, he's totally untraceable. I'm sure he didn't realize anyone was gonna be there when he did Handsome Frank, or he would've backed off. He sure as hell didn't know that she was gonna be there.
  • Sonny Valerio : Louie, unless you wanna be buried next to Frank, now is the time to tell us everything you know about this mysterious, ghost-like, untraceable, fuckin' button man.
  • Sonny Valerio : Now is the time to tell us everything you know about this mysterious ghostlike untraceable fuckin' button man.
  • Louie : It's a pigeon. It must be a carrier pigeon or whatever.
  • Old Consigliere : Passenger pigeon! They've been extinct since 1914!
  • Sonny Valerio : Am I fucking dreaming here or what? All right, Louie, forget about the bird, okay?
  • Ray Vargo : [ as Ghost Dog enters his room, armed ] I've been expecting you.
  • Ghost Dog : [ drives by a couple of hunters with the corpse of a black bear, stops and gets out ] Wow, that's a hell of a big bear you killed there.
  • Bear Hunter : Yep. The fucker weighs about three-hundred pounds.
  • Ghost Dog : You know, it's funny, because I... I didn't - I didn't even know that it was bear-hunting season.
  • Bear Hunter : What are you, a game warden? Some kind of Fed or something?
  • Ghost Dog : No, no. I'm just asking, you know. Just asking.
  • Bear Hunter : Well, I'll tell ya'. You see, there aren't too many of these big black fuckers left around here, so when you get a good, clear shot at it, you sure as hell take it.
  • Ghost Dog : Hmm. That's why you shoot 'em... because there aren't that many left.
  • Bear Hunter : [ getting skeptical ] I don't think I understand your question.
  • Bear Hunter : [ takes a shotgun from the bed of their pickup truck ] You know, there ain't all that many colored people around here, neither. Maybe you oughta get back in your fancy car and go about your own business.
  • Ghost Dog : [ stares at him blankly for a moment before smiling and chuckling ] Yeah, maybe you're right.
  • [ turns as though he's about to comply, then quickly points a gun at the armed hunter and opens fire, hitting him twice and killing him; the other hunter is already getting into the driver's side of the vehicle going for his firearm but then is stopped when Ghost Dog fires a round into the back of his knee, making him fall next to the bear, groaning in extreme pain ]
  • Bear Hunter : [ moaning ] Jesus Christ! You fucking hit my knee!
  • Ghost Dog : [ stands over him, gun aimed at his face ] You know, in ancient cultures, bears were considered equal with men.
  • Bear Hunter : [ looks up at him, still moaning ] This ain't no ancient culture here, mister.
  • [ shoots him ]

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Accueil Tous les numéros 3 : 2 Dossier hip-hop Disciplines du hip-hop Jim Jarmusch’s Aesthetics of Samp...

Jim Jarmusch’s Aesthetics of Sampling in Ghost Dog–The Way of the Samurai

The aim of this paper will be to examine the stylistic and, to some extent, thematic interplay between written text, cinematic narratives and soundtrack in Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog–The Way of the Samurai . Indeed, Jarmusch weaves a rich intertextual network by means of an aesthetic of sampling clearly reminiscent of that adopted by rap musicians since the end of the 1970s. The–mainly instrumental–music for the film is composed by hip-hop collective Wu-Tang Clan’s mastermind The RZA, and underscores an auteur ’s rereading of the gangster movie genre .

Entrées d’index

Mots clés : , keywords: , géographique : , genre musical : , artiste : , texte intégral.

Ghost Dog, affiche du film

  • 1 Not that this subject dates back to the end of the 1980s: the heroes of famous 19 th -century African (...)

2 Most critics regard Josef von Sternberg’s Underworld (1927) as the first major gangster film.

  • 3 Jim Jarmusch, who played in a band called Del Byzanteens at the beginning of his artistic career, r (...)

1 Ice Cube’s “Gangsta’s Fairytale” (1990), Tupac Shakur and Snoop Dogg’s “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” (1996), 50 Cent’s “What Up Gangsta” (2003): from the end of the 1980s, in countless raps, 1 the gangster persona has inspired a host of MCs, who since then have adopted—and adapted—an imagery and themes the American film industry started dealing with sixty years earlier. 2 However, this cross-fertilization can work the other way round too. A director like Jim Jarmusch has chosen to invigorate Ghost Dog–The Way of the Samurai not only with the charismatic power of the black gangster, but also with a particularly rich intertextual network and an aesthetics of sampling clearly reminiscent of that taken up by rap artists since the end of the 1970s. Indeed, rap music’s dominant feature is arguably its elaboration technique, where the notions of code and quote play a major part. Most raps are built on loops borrowed from other records, more or less creatively appropriated, twisted—some would say defaced—and then rearranged in a process which gives a new significance to finished artistic products. The originality of Jarmusch’s work lies partly in his use of a stylistic palette borrowed from contemporary popular—and particularly black—music, 3 a palette which he brings into play to bypass the old binary tradition-vs.-modernity opposition and thus implement a poetics mixing sampling, layering and overdubbing.

The track(s) of a peculiar hit man

“Matters of great concern should be treated lightly. […] Matters of small concern should be treated seriously.” ( Hagakure–The Book of the Samurai : 25)

2 This principle, stated by the main character of Ghost Dog–The Way of the Samurai , applies particularly well to the approach Jim Jarmusch embraces to tell a very classic story with means and in modes which are not so. The hero, whom everybody calls Ghost Dog, is an African-American hit man whose life is ruled by the precepts of a book entitled Hagakure–The Book of the Samurai . He is hired by a small-time Mafia famiglia satisfied with his efficiency, until one day a witness—who happens to be the daughter of the family’s boss—sees him execute a contract and kill a mobster called Handsome Frank. From that moment, the gangsters hunt down the tragic hero. In this chronicle of a seppuku foretold, Ghost Dog, torn between his will to survive and his loyalty to his master Louie, eventually chooses death in a final shoot-out scene, in accordance with the central commandment of the text on which his existence rests, i.e. “Live by the code, die by the code.”

3 Jim Jarmusch associates an eighteenth-century book and an African-American character belonging to a minority which has embodied modernity in western culture—and above all music—for a long time. These connections can sound surprising at first blush, especially when one listens to the film’s rap and jazz movie soundtrack, which sounds unmistakably “urban,” if I may use a catchall musical category. The film-maker’s aesthetics falls within the framework of a convention—namely rereading—here used to explore a well-charted topos .

4 The first thing that strikes the spectator in Ghost Dog is the way Jim Jarmusch switches and jams codes. Not only is an African-American contract killer working for the Mafia immersed in Japanese culture. Sonny, an Italian-American, understands and obviously enjoys an aspect of hip-hop culture, i.e. rap. He is familiar with artists such as Method Man, Q-Tip and Public Enemy. The jester of this last band goes by the name of Flavor Flav and Sonny knows his boasting classic “Cold Lampin’ with Flavor” ( It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back ) by heart, thus appropriating a song performed by a group borrowing a reference from a 1931 gangster film classic— The Public Enemy —in turn taken over by this character playing the part of a failed gangster. Sonny’s boss, Vargo, is also capable of deciphering a message taken from Hagakure which Ghost Dog sends him:

Even if a samurai’s head were to be suddenly cut off, he should still be able to perform one more action with certainty. If one becomes like a revengeful ghost and shows great determination, though his head is cut off, he should not die.

Vargo explains to his puzzled associates the meaning of these words as “the poetry of war.” Handsome Frank, however, dies quickly as he mistakes Ghost Dog for a petty thug only interested in his Rolex and who would never dare shoot him simply because he is black.

5 In this code-switching strategy, Jarmusch uses quotations both for characterization and structuration purposes. Sonny is depicted as Ghost Dog’s reversed Doppelgänger . His limp mirrors the African-American’s heavy and awkward walk. When he raps

4 “Cold Lampin’ with Flavor.” Live lyrics from the bank of reality I kick da flyest dope maneuver technicality To a dope track, you wanna hike git out ya backpack […] 4

his acculturation echoes Ghost Dog’s, who is to a certain extent integrated in a subgroup of the Italian-American community. Moreover, the film-maker articulates the plot around aphorisms taken from Hagakure recited in voice-overs by Forest Whitaker which help define Ghost Dog’s character and motives. As for his opponents, Jarmusch embeds extracts from cartoons to introduce or comment on the mafiosi ’s deeds and attitudes. At one point, mobsters watch an episode of Felix the Cat in which the hero, thanks to his “bag of tricks,” thwarts the plans of a mad scientist. This “hip” cat has the same kind of cool, rolling walk as Ghost Dog and both characters are, at that point, invulnerable to their enemy’s efforts.

6 The written word also plays a major part in the film. The aphorisms read out by Ghost Dog are shown on titles. Furthermore books, which Jarmusch recycles as linguistic and iconic signs of recognition, are central to the plot. Ghost Dog and a little girl named Pearline have a conversation on works such as Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows , Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and even Fern Shepard’s Night Nurse while Jarmusch shows the “pulp-style” covers of these cheap paperback editions. Nonetheless, one particular literary artifact, a copy of Ry nosuke Akutagawa’s Rashomon propels the plot in a decisive way. Jarmusch films Handsome Frank and Louise in a room. She throws a copy of Rashomon on the floor in a gesture full of contempt for Frank, who is obviously unwilling and unable to understand or share his girlfriend’s literary tastes. Instead of picking up the book, he casts a hangdog look at her. A subsequent shot of the book on the floor shows its cover picture of a half-dressed woman assaulted by a brigand (Akutagawa: 14 ) illustrating one of the stories of the Rashomon collection, entitled “In a Grove” or “Yabu no Naka,” where a “bandit” puts an end to a couple’s relationship by killing the husband. This scene foreshadows Handsome Frank’s fate and enables Jarmusch to stress Akutagawa’s and also Akira Kurosawa’s legacies, with a reference to the Japanese director’s adaptation of Rashomon in 1951. The camera eye then moves up from the book to Ghost Dog who shoots the mobster. The hit man, attracted by the drawing and the Asian-sounding title of the book, enters the room and is seen by Louise. He spares her life and when she sees him looking at Rashomon , she tells him: “It’s a good book.” Ghost Dog takes the paperback and leaves the scene of his crime. Fade to black, end scene.

Pastiches and mixing

  • 5 See for example Public Enemy’s “Brothers Gonna Work it Out” on Fear of a Black Planet , whose first (...)

6 The original club closed in 1965, but a new Birdland has opened since at 315 West 44th Street.

  • 7 George W. Bush’s proclamation of Black Music Month in 2001 reads thus: “Jazz, often called America’ (...)

7 Jarmusch does not only resort to original cultural forms, however. His approach is also governed by what I would call a poetics of recycling and sampling applied to more or less veiled references, firstly on a self-referential mode. As rappers start a song with quotes from or hints at their previous raps, 5 Jarmusch casts actors he has worked with in previous films. In 1991, Isaach de Bankolé, a Haitian ice-cream man in Ghost Dog , played the part of a cab driver in Night on Earth , and the role of Native-American Nobody that Gary Farmer was given in Dead Man (1995) is transposed three years later, with the same pithy phrase—”Stupid fucking white man!”—uttered just as vehemently in both works. Jarmusch’s casting of Forest Whitaker also has a definite resonance for jazz and cinema lovers: Whitaker played the part of the great saxophone player Charlie Parker in Clint Eastwood’s Bird and received the prize for best actor at the 1988 Cannes film festival. When Ghost Dog enters a derelict grain and feed store called Birdland, jazz connoisseurs immediately make the connection with the mythical jazz club of the same name on Broadway. On December 15 th 1949, Charlie “Bird” Parker played on the opening night of this Mecca for be-bop named Birdland as a tribute to his talent and where he made his final public appearance in March 1955 (Carles et al.: 116). 6 In a roundabout way, Jarmusch stresses his character’s American and African-American cultural heritage. The status of jazz as “America’s classical music” is recognized even at the highest level of the United States government, 7 but it is also true that it is becoming more and more difficult for traditional culture to survive intact in a vacuum, judging from Birdland’s dilapidated state in Jarmusch’s movie, or the way Ghost Dog seems to confuse Frankenstein with his creature when he talks about Mary Shelley’s novel with Pearline. What traditional “auratic” culture, to use a phrase coined by Walter Benjamin (1991: 143), can do is serve as a base on which new works can be created.

8 Indeed, Jarmusch acknowledges film history and some literary works from which directors have drawn their inspiration. Ghost Dog can be regarded as a tribute to Seijun Suzuki’s Branded to Kill (1967) and, in an even more obvious way, to Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï (1967). Melville puts in a fabricated quotation from Bushido — i.e. the way of the warrior—as epigraph to his movie:

8 «There is no greater solitude than that of samurai, unless perhaps that of the tiger in the jungle. (...) Il n’y a pas de plus profonde solitude que celle du samouraï si ce n’est celle d’un tigre dans la jungle… Peut-être… 8

9 This code of practice based on loyalty and strong links of interdependence between lords and their retainers, even stronger than family bonds, originated when Shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo established a new government in Kamakura in 1192, and was entitled Bushido in the 17 th century. The Hagakure collection was written by Yamamoto Tsunetomo,

a former samurai who was unable to follow his lord, Nabeshima Mitsushige, in death, for this practice had been prohibited in the 1660s by both the Nabeshima fief and the Tokugawa shogunate […] And though a samurai, [Tsunetomo] never engaged in warfare. (Tsunetomo Foreword: 1)

Like Melville, Jarmusch cites a recollection/reconstruction of things past.

10 Artistic tradition is not necessarily synonymous with obsolescence, though. In an approach similar to Akutagawa’s and Kurosawa’s, Jarmusch shows the turning point of his hero’s life several times and shot from different angles, that is Louie rescuing him when three assailants attack him. The film-maker uses this episode as a sample, or a loop—to quote terms drawn from rap and electronic music—around which he builds up Ghost Dog’s character. Here is what Jarmusch says about his modus operandi :

Talking to Forest [Whitaker], I [found] he was interested in Eastern philosophy and martial arts. So that led me to a samurai. And then I just collected a lot of random details and ideas. And I made a sort of connect-the-dots drawing. (Roston)

In rap music, old-school DJs did not pay any royalties for the samples which made up the sonic fabric of their tracks. However, after numerous lawsuits, “new-school” DJs did their best to avoid quoting their sources in too explicit a manner and adopted a strategy called “sonic shop-lifting” by their detractors.

11 Jarmusch can be regarded as both an old-school and a new-school director, more interested in pastiche and its open and rather reverent use of stylistic processes than in dissimulation, as Jarmusch’s rereading of Melville’s Le Samouraï shows. Both the French hit man Jeff Castillo, played by Alain Delon, and Ghost Dog have a yen for car theft, with Castillo’s bunch of keys changed into a magical electronic device by Jarmusch. Both characters put on white gloves when they are about to kill someone. Furthermore, Jarmusch’s argument is similar to Melville’s. Jeff Castillo murders a man running a night club. He is seen by a black female jazz pianist after his crime, which was evidently ordered because, like in Ghost Dog , a woman had an affair with a man holding a lower rank in the hierarchy of the underworld, in other words a retainer. In both films, the heroes must be stopped because a witness has seen them. The competence of these professionals is not questioned. Here is how Castillo’s employers portray him:

9 «He is very good. He respected the contract.» / “He is a lone wolf.” - Il est très fort. Il a respecté le contrat. - C’est un loup solitaire. 9

And this is what Louie has to say for his «special guy»:

You wanted Handsome Frank whacked. So he got whacked. From outside. […] For the past four years, the guy’s done maybe twelve perfect contracts. Perfect. Like a ghost. […] He’s always showed me complete respect.

To cut a long list short, both heroes keep birds, whose deaths announce similar dénouements, both hit men heading for certain death with a death wish and their guns unloaded.

  • 10 In The Godfather , Luca Brasi is Don Vito Corleone’s longtime henchman, who dies stabbed in the hand (...)

12 Jarmusch’s rereading tactic also has a more parodic dimension, with a humorous debunking of Cosa Nostra dramas, especially The Godfather . A somewhat pathetic bunch of wiseguys, the mobsters have difficulty paying their rent to their Asian-American landlord. They fail to make sure that a representative of the so-called weaker sex boards a bus and cannot keep their problems in the family to solve them, for good reason: the boss’s daughter is having an affair with one of the few retainers left to her father. Ghost Dog is a kind of black Luca Brasi  10 on whom these mafiosi must rely because they have no choice but to subcontract their trickier murders. The discovery of the henchman’s identity hastens his ruin, first because of a kind of non-consummated miscegenation between an African-American and a white Italian-American woman, and second because Louise has seen an illustration of the decline of the family and its traditions. Jarmusch’s scene ironically echoes this passage from Mario Puzo’s Godfather , which Coppola has used in his trilogy:

“In my city I would try to keep [drug] traffic in the dark people, the colored. They are the best customers, the least troublesome and they are animals anyway. They have no respect for their wives or their families or for themselves. Let them lose their souls with drugs.” (Puzo: 290).

Pitch-shifting, time-stretching, tone-scaling

11 In French: effet de rendu (Chion, 1995: 227).

13 Nevertheless, it is not satire that prevails in Jarmusch’s film, but rather slight formal displacements. Like a DJ with his home-studio feeding his sampler with various sonic sources, Jarmusch enriches the somewhat classic—if not hackneyed—story of an outsider alone against the world with numerous references which result in a dense intertextual network. There is more to sampling than simply copying and pasting. Assemblage and layering are crucial in the creative process of designing an original and hybrid movie. Jarmusch’s use of slow motion is revealing in that respect. He resorts to this stylistic device first to deceive the spectator’s expectations. When Ghost Dog sees the mobsters who are on his trail driving by, nothing happens. In another scene, Ghost Dog and another African-American in battle dress, who happens to be The RZA, that is the composer of the movie soundtrack and member of the Wu-Tang Clan rap collective, walk towards each other in a slow motion shot/reverse shot. The expected outcome— i.e. the attack on Ghost Dog—is defused when slow motion stops and the other man pays his respects to the hero. From a more visual point of view, slow motion is used for a scene where Ghost Dog practices martial arts. The same images are superposed with a slight delay, as if a reverb effect were applied to moves—including very western jabs and uppercuts—to underline their fluidity, contrasting with the usual rigidity and speed of kung-fu fighters’ gestures. On the Foley track, the rendering effect  11 of these moves is repeated when Ghost Dog wields handguns like swords, with a “whoosh” sound.

  • 12 Cf. “Ghost Dog Theme (w/dogs and EFX)” and “Ghost Dog Theme,” or “Opening Theme (Raise your Sword I (...)

14 The music soundtrack stresses these displacements in a very effective way. Ghost Dog’s rolling and awkward walk is audible in “Ghost Dog Theme.” The loop on which RZA mixes metallic percussions with machinery noises in the background is far from perfect and sounds as if it were recorded from a scratched record. In the last third of “RZA #7,” the composer inserts a slower second beat box track between the beats of the first one, then fades it out. The Wu-Tang Clan’s mastermind does not seek rhythmic efficiency at any cost. His stylistic standpoint is to include samples which do not completely blend with the others, as he does not want to conceal the nature of his work as bricolage . Indeed, originals are not untouchable. Two versions of the same track can be used  12 on a soundtrack which accompanies, but is also part and parcel of the movie. Jarmusch does not only resort to what Michel Chion calls “ musique de fosse ,” or pit music, that is music whose source and origin are not visible (Chion, 1995: 189). Besides RZA’s music, with its traditional role of narrative cueing ( Ibid. : 121) when it signals or stresses a particular situation or a character’s point of view, Jarmusch uses several times what Chion calls “ musique d’écran ” or diegetic music, that is music whose source is visible, in this case the car radios of the vehicles Ghost Dog steals and the one he has transformed into a hi-fi system, or to be more precise, the PA systems which play data written in a digital medium. If rap is mainly studio music cut on CDs or vinyl records, it can also be performed without samples or loops. Jarmusch films four African-Americans in the park where Ghost Dog meets his Haitian friend. Unlike in most movies, where recorded music fades in when characters start to sing, the film uses an exactly opposing technique.

15 Jarmusch defines his hero by an addition of elements and traits generally regarded as antithetic in principle but which, instead of being mutually exclusive, highlight both Ghost Dog’s “old-school” ethos and his contemporary character. Ghost Dog “keeps it real” as today’s hardcore rappers would say, a real “gangsta” true to his ideal to the end, choosing to communicate via carrier pigeons while using an electronic box of tricks enabling him to break any alarm code. The nom de guerre he chooses when he goes to Vargo’s manse is Solo, reminiscent of his condition but also of other characters such as Han Solo in the Star Wars saga. Ghost Dog is a hero, but must have a tragic flaw in order for the film to reach its planned unhappy ending. He is aware of playing in a sequence already filmed thousands of times and tells Louie: “What is this Louie? High Noon ? This is the final shootout scene. […] It’s very dramatic.” Although he is familiar with Hollywood’s codes, he does not understand that his master is an old-school low-grade mafioso who will remain a retainer. In fact, the new family’s boss is Vargo’s daughter, a woman with a standard American upbringing without a trace of Italian accent. “Nothing makes any sense anymore,” says Louie when Ghost Dog dies. What does make sense, judging from the film and the moral of the story, is to read Rashomon and to watch an “Itchy and Scratchy” cartoon embedded in an episode of The Simpsons itself embedded in a film. Distance, layering and bricolage have become the new keywords. Autonomous art forms and self-sufficient, closed communities are history.

16 Overall, Jarmusch’s vision of culture is decidedly deferent, but also unquestionably un-auratic. In the final scene, Pearline reads Hagakure while Ghost Dog’s voice-over can be heard pronouncing these words:

In the Kamigata area they have a sort of tiered lunchbox they use for a single day when flower viewing. Upon returning, they throw them away, trampling them underfoot. The end is important in all things.

This echoes the first conversation between Ghost Dog and the little girl when she takes her books out of her lunch box to show them to the hero. The editions of the books Pearline has presumably borrowed from a library are obviously cheap and widely available and Jarmusch seems to reject any kind of fetishism concerning culture in general and high-brow culture in particular.

17 Jarmusch stages the quixotic revolt of an outsider waging war against his hierarchy in a doomed effort to perpetuate and live by the values he has chosen. Ghost Dog also abides by the old-school Mafia code of honor and refuses to murder a woman. He cannot and will not become a ronin , that is a samurai without a master, or find himself in the same position as the unnamed hero of the “Rashomon” short story, whom Akutagawa depicts thus:

[…] the servant was waiting for a break in the rain. But he had no particular idea of what to do after the rain stopped. Ordinarily, of course, he would have returned to his master’s house, but he had been discharged just before. The prosperity of the city of Kyôto had been rapidly declining, and he had been dismissed by his master, whom he had served many years, because of the effects of this decline. (27)

13 For a discussion of postmodernism and film see Jameson, 117 and Woods, 211-215.

18 As for Jim Jarmusch, he anchors his work to film and art history without joining in the “retro” nostalgia  13 so many postmodern films bask in. Tinkering with cultural clichés, collaging and tailoring materials picked from diverse artistic fields, he keeps out of an umpteenth quarrel between the Ancients and the Moderns and, like a jazz musician, reinterprets standards to innovate, or at least produce works that are original in the fullest sense of the word. Jarmusch does not choose between “ancient” Japan and modern multicultural America or, to use a musical analogy, between “sour grapes” and “moldy figs,” as advocates and opponents of be-bop called each other in the 1940s. The multiple (cross-)references he layers and keeps track of enable this auteur to explore in an elegant way the territory of the film de genre .

Bibliographie

Akutagawa Ry nosuke (2001), Rashomon and Other Stories [1952], translated by Takashi Kojima, Tokyo, Boston, Tuttle Publishing.

Anonymous (2000), “Jim Jarmusch The Director of Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai Gets Philosophical”, Barnes and Noble web site, August, 16, 2000: http://video.barnesandnoble.com/search/interview.asp?ctr=2164540 , Last checked March 3 rd , 2004.

Benjamin Walter (1991), Écrits français, Paris, Gallimard.

Bush George W. (2001), “Black Music Month, 2001. By the President of the United States of America: A Proclamation.” White House web site, June 29, 2001: http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/06/20010629-16.html , Last checked March 3rd, 2004.

Carles Philippe et al. (1994), Dictionnaire du Jazz. Paris, Robert Laffont, coll. « Bouquins ».

Chion Michel (1995), La Musique au cinéma, Paris, Fayard, coll. « Les chemins de la musique ».

Chion Michel (1998), Le Son, Paris, Nathan.

Jameson Fredric (1991), Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. London, Verso.

Jones LeRoi (1969), Black Music, New York, William Morrow & Co.

Levine Lawrence W. (1978), Black Culture and Black Consciousness. Afro-American Folk Thought From Slavery to Freedom, Oxford, New York, Oxford University Press.

Puzo Mario (1969), The Godfather, Greenwich, Conn., Fawcett Crest.

Roston Tom (2000), “Spaced Ghost”, Premiere, Feb. 2000, Reproduced on the web at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/jarmusch/message/290 , Last checked March 4th, 2004.

Tanifeani William (Propos recueillis par) (1986), « Entretien avec Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones », Les Temps Modernes, n° 485 (December 1986), p. 88-111.

taylor William “Billy” (1986), “Jazz : America’s Classical Music”, The Black Perspective in Music 14.1 (Winter), p. 21-25.

Tsunetomo Yamamoto (1983), Hagakure. The Book of the Samurai, (Translation and foreword: William Scott Wilson), Tokyo, New York, Kodansha International.

Woods Tim (1999), Beginning Postmodernism, Manchester, Manchester University Press.

Discography

50 Cent (2003), Get Rich or Die Tryin’ , Interscope 493544.

Ice Cube (1990), Amerikkka’s Most Wanted , 4th & Bway/Islannd 551/846 532-2.

Public Enemy (1990), Fear of a Black Planet , Def Jam CBS 4662812.

Public Enemy (1988), It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back , Def Jam CBS 4624152.

Rza, The (1999), Music from the Motion Picture Ghost Dog–The Way of the Samurai By The RZA. Victor, VICP-60944.

Tupac Shakur (1996), All Eyez on Me , Polygram 24204.

Various Artists (2000), Ghost Dog–The Way of the Samurai , The Album , Epic 496146 2.

Filmography

Bird (Clint Eastwood, 1988).

Branded to Kill (Seijun Suzuki, 1967).

Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, 1995).

Ghost Dog —The Way of the Samurai (Jim Jarmusch, 1999).

Le Samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967).

Night on Earth (Jim Jarmusch, 1991).

Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1951).

Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977).

The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1971).

The Public Enemy (William A. Wellman, 1931).

1 Not that this subject dates back to the end of the 1980s: the heroes of famous 19 th -century African-American ballads like “Railroad Bill,” “Staggerlee” or “Po’ Lazarus” were already larger-than-life outlaws. (See Levine: 410-420).

3 Jim Jarmusch, who played in a band called Del Byzanteens at the beginning of his artistic career, readily admits this influence (“Jim Jarmusch The Director of Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai Gets Philosophical”): “I’m a big fan of hard bebop and I love hip-hop, and those musical forms have always taken things from other places and woven them into something new. For instance, when Charlie Parker quotes some standard in a solo, he’s transforming it. He’s quoting from it, he’s referring to it, but he’s making something else out of it, in the same way hip-hop takes samples from different places but makes them into something new.” To my knowledge, however, no article analyzes the connection between music and film-making in this work.

4 “Cold Lampin’ with Flavor.”

5 See for example Public Enemy’s “Brothers Gonna Work it Out” on Fear of a Black Planet , whose first lines: “Uh, the rhythm, the rebel, Don’t believe the hype YES How low can you go? Don’t know if we can do this Here we go again” are quotes from “Rebel without a Pause” and “Bring the Noise” on It takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back .

7 George W. Bush’s proclamation of Black Music Month in 2001 reads thus: “Jazz, often called America’s classical music, so influenced our culture that Americans named a decade after it.’’ For a discussion of that status, see Taylor, Jones (1969: 18) and Tanifeani (1986: 92).

8 «There is no greater solitude than that of samurai, unless perhaps that of the tiger in the jungle.»

9 «He is very good. He respected the contract.» / “He is a lone wolf.”

10 In The Godfather , Luca Brasi is Don Vito Corleone’s longtime henchman, who dies stabbed in the hand and strangled, his death symbolized by a large fish .

12 Cf. “Ghost Dog Theme (w/dogs and EFX)” and “Ghost Dog Theme,” or “Opening Theme (Raise your Sword Instrumental)” and “Samurai Showdown (Raise your Sword) (Featuring The RZA)” (The RZA).

Pour citer cet article

Référence papier.

Éric Gonzalez , « Jim Jarmusch’s Aesthetics of Sampling in Ghost Dog–The Way of the Samurai  » ,  Volume ! , 3 : 2 | 2004, 109-121.

Référence électronique

Éric Gonzalez , « Jim Jarmusch’s Aesthetics of Sampling in Ghost Dog–The Way of the Samurai  » ,  Volume ! [En ligne], 3 : 2 | 2004, mis en ligne le 15 octobre 2006 , consulté le 16 janvier 2024 . URL  : http://journals.openedition.org/volume/1973 ; DOI  : https://doi.org/10.4000/volume.1973

Éric Gonzalez

Éric Gonzalez est maître de conférences à l’université de Rennes 2 – Haute Bretagne. Il travaille sur la musique africaine-américaine, et plus particulièrement sur les corrélations entre praxis esthétique et praxis sociale au sein de la communauté noire. Ses derniers travaux portent sur les transactions entre la musique populaire et d’autres formes artistiques, en particulier le cinéma et la littérature. mail

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Le texte seul est utilisable sous licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 . Les autres éléments (illustrations, fichiers annexes importés) sont « Tous droits réservés », sauf mention contraire.

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Revisit: ghost dog: the way of the samurai.

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Jim Jarmusch has long been interested in communication. Not exactly in how we communicate but the space that exists when people from different backgrounds interface. In his early work, the director used this plane as the axis for much of his humor. Both Stranger than Paradise and Down by Law featured European characters trying to make sense of America through broken English. Yet Jarmusch isn’t making jokes at the expense of his characters. In fact, there is a sort of sweetness there.

Take for example, Dead Man , Jarmusch’s 1995 Western that features Johnny Depp being led through a brutal landscape by Nobody (Gary Farmer), a Native American guide of sorts who believes his charge is the reincarnation of the poet William Blake. Both of the men speak English, but the way Nobody understands the world is vastly different than the way Blake perceives it. It’s that search for common ground, a mutual understanding of sorts, that drives many of Jarmusch’s characters.

hagakure citation ghost dog

Following a misunderstanding with his Mafia bosses, Ghost Dog eventually becomes a target himself. The Mob truly has no idea where to find him, though. He only communicates with Louie (John Torney), a low-level hood who once saved pre-Samurai Ghost Dog from a beating. Ghost Dog has since bound himself to Louie, swearing himself as the Mafioso’s retainer. Louie doesn’t really seem to care about the Hagakure . He just likes Ghost Dog’s discretion and efficacy when it comes to whacking people.

Jarmusch’s playful use of miscommunication comes in to play when we meet Ghost Dog’s only friend: a Haitian ice cream truck owner named Raymond (Isaach De Bankolé), who can only speak French. Even though Ghost Dog and Raymond don’t share a common tongue, they actually understand one another better than they believe. In a sly joke, Ghost Dog often echoes in English whatever Raymond says in subtitled French. Instead, they are able to appreciate life’s beauty and mystery despite being able to speak.

There is also a communication breakdown between Ghost Dog and the mobsters in the movie. When mythologized by Hollywood, the men of the Cosa Nostra live and die by a strict code. In Jarmusch’s film, the mobsters are often played for laughs. They are undisciplined and crass, very different from the ascetic Ghost Dog. These aren’t rich and powerful men. They are in arrears for rent and long-past their prime. They are men who know their time has passed, but are too afraid to communicate it.

Richly shot by Robby Müller and featuring an evocative score by the RZA, Ghost Dog picks up the discussion about the space between life and death that Jarmusch began in Dead Man . The Hagakure that Samurai must be ready to welcome death at every turn and like Depp’s Blake, Ghost Dog seems to wander in that liminal space that exists between these poles. It is one of the director’s coolest features, in an oeuvre featuring some of the slickest characters ever. We may not need to understand everything we see, but that’s exactly the point.

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Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999 USA/France 116 mins)

Prod : Richard Guay, Jim Jarmusch Dir, Scr : Jarmusch Phot : Robby Müller Ed : Jay Rabinowitz Art Dir : Mario Ventenilla Mus : RZA

Cast : Forest Whitaker, John Tormey, Cliff Gorman, Henry Silva, Isaach de Bankolé, Tricia Vessey, Victor Argo, Gene Ruffini, Richard Portnow, Camille Winbush

“The Way of the Samurai is found in death.”

– Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

Jim Jarmusch is a truly independent filmmaker with a very distinctive cinematic style. As a director who takes complete creative control of his projects, he has delivered critically acclaimed films such as Mystery Train (1989), Dead Man (1995) and Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai . Thematically, Jarmusch is deeply interested in the catastrophic effects generated by the collision of different cultures. (1) Although most of the characters in his films are not able to survive the cultural clash, some do manage to develop a profound spirituality that empowers them and allows them to endure their difficult ordeals. As observed by Jonathan Rosenbaum, characters rather than plot are the crucial pillars of Jarmusch’s films. (2)

Ghost Dog revolves around its title character, an African-American mafia hit man who has taken the spiritual and philosophical posture of a samurai, and his attempts to reconcile his beliefs with those of his employers. Ghost Dog (Forrest Whitaker) devotedly carries out assassinations for his retainer Louie (John Tormey), a mafia foot soldier who once saved his life. Things become difficult when the mafia’s don, Vargo (Henry Silva), orders the murder of one of his associates because he is sleeping with his daughter Louise (Tricia Vessey). Ghost Dog successfully carries out his mission, but Louise witnesses the murder. In order to maintain his image with his daughter, Vargo must adhere to the mafia’s philosophy on revenge and payback. Ironically, Vargo orders the elimination of Ghost Dog. The rest of the film showcases Ghost Dog’s quest for survival. His ordeal is complex, as he also has to adhere to the samurai code and protect his retainer.

Comparable to the manner in which Dead Man deconstructs the Western genre, Ghost Dog deconstructs the myths and conventions of the gangster and samurai films. (3) For instance, the mafia that is portrayed in Ghost Dog is completely decadent, contrasting strongly with the largely romantic and luxurious gangster world shown in films such as The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972) and The Untouchables (Brian De Palma, 1987). The godfathers in Ghost Dog are aged, bankrupt and lonely. Jarmusch even adds some ridiculous, ironic and amusing situations to the storyline. For example, the mafia don is behind with his rent and watches television cartoons in a nearly catatonic state. Also, the don’s henchmen cannot even control a spoiled kid who throws objects at them from a window. Even the ‘Industrial City’ they live in seems to be in a complete state of decay and is immersed in total poverty. Ghost Dog portrays a violent and postmodernist environment that contributes a sense of bleakness, despair and dejection to the film. (4)

The samurai world of Ghost Dog is equally decadent. The ancient samurai was an elite warrior dressed in beautifully ornamented armor who worked for feudal lords and emperors. Samurais belonged to a knightly cast and they commanded armies. In Ghost Dog , the lonely samurai dresses in old, dirty black fatigues and lives in a humble rooftop shack. He works for unsuccessful gangsters, and his own employers despise his racial origins. Nevertheless, Ghost Dog holds deeply to the samurai code and philosophy. As a matter of fact, Ghost Dog’s samurai spirituality confers upon him strength and gives meaning to his otherwise violent, criminal and irrational existence. (5)

Ghost Dog attains high levels of spirituality by practicing martial arts and reading the Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai , an 18th century book that established the philosophy of the samurai. Quotes from the Hagakure are presented intermittently on the screen throughout the film. While this seems to interrupt the narrative, it actually provides a philosophical context to interpret Ghost Dog’s actions. But even more, Ghost Dog is a film whose characters share their life and philosophy by exchanging books. Therefore, Ghost Dog seems to be a self-conscious film, which tries to share its spirituality with its viewers by forcing them to read quotes from the Hagakure .

The chaotic environment that surrounds Ghost Dog is in a large part due to the collision of different cultures. Ghost Dog himself is a product of such a cultural clash. He is an African-American hoodlum who reinvents himself as a powerful Japanese warrior working for Italian-American gangsters headquartered in a Chinese restaurant. Even more, Ghost Dog, who does not speak or understand another language, claims as his best friend French-speaking Raymond (Isaach de Bankolé), who is a Haitian ice-cream seller who does not speak a word of English. However, even though they do not understand each other’s verbal communication, they establish a powerful relationship and seem to be bound together by their shared spirituality. The multicultural world of Ghost Dog leads equally to positive and destructive interactions.

Ghost Dog is a very open film in terms of the racial politics it portrays. White men, as represented by the gangsters, are on a declining path of self-destruction. On the other hand, black men are portrayed as spiritual people, and the creators of a new and enigmatic culture which ironically seems to revolve around the myth of Ghost Dog. Consider, for example, the rap songs and gossiping made around Ghost Dog’s character, and the arcane language exchanged between Ghost Dog and an equally mysterious “Camouflage Samurai” (played by RZA).

Racial tensions are highly evident in the film, and are showcased not only by the skirmish that occurs between the openly racist white mafia and Ghost Dog, but also by the bear hunters that appear at one point in the film. Indeed, as Raymond suggests, the bear is a symbolic figure that accurately represents Ghost Dog’s indefatigable spirit. At the same time, Ghost Dog can also be said to stand for ‘blackness.’ Therefore, the white hunters who have illegally killed a bear metaphorically epitomize racist murderers. Such a reading is reinforced when one of the hunters justifies killing the bear on the grounds that “There are not many of these big black fuckers anymore.” The second hunters adds, while pointing a shotgun to Ghost Dog, “For that matter, there are not many colored people around here neither.”

The cultural clash portrayed in Ghost Dog has apocalyptic proportions. The cultural differences between Ghost Dog and the mafia seem to be irreconcilable, and it certainly leads to the destruction of most of the characters involved in the conflict. Ghost Dog is a violent post-modernist film permeated by an inexorable sense of hopelessness. The Hispanic man who is building a boat on top of his roof further highlights the film’s bleakness. He resembles a busy Noah working on his ark of salvation before the wrath of God destroys humankind. (6) Even so, the film tries to convey the hope of a possible non-violent solution, which may be reached by the younger and more educated generations. As the samurai tradition is passed on to an intelligent little girl, and while Vargo’s book-loving daughter inherits the mafia leadership, one can only hope the future is more peaceful. In the multicultural worlds of Jarmusch’s films, an ethnic confrontation that leads to catastrophic consequences seems to be inevitable. And for Jarmusch’s characters, a deep spirituality is their only means of survival and achieving transcendence, even when surrounded by a violent and illogical environment.

  • ABBREVIATIONS
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Quotes.net

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Ghost Dog: Everything around us seems to be changing, huh, Louie?

Louie: You can f***ing say that again.

Sonny Valerio: "If a warrior's head were to be suddenly cut off, he should still be able to perform one more action with certainty." What the f*** does that mean?

Ray Vargo: It's poetry. The poetry of war.

Louie: Goddamn it. You shot me in the exact same f***ing place as last time!

Ghost Dog: I'm sorry. I mean you no disrespect. You're my retainer. I don't want to put too many holes in you.

Ghost Dog: You know, in ancient cultures, bears were considered equal with men.

Ghost Dog: Sometimes it is.

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one's body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake, falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one's master. And every day without fail one should consider himself as dead.

Ghost Dog: It is bad when one thing becomes two. One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai. It is the same for anything that is called a Way. If one understands things in this manner, he should be able to hear about all ways and be more and more in accord with his own.

Ghost Dog: If one were to say in a word what the condition of being a samurai is, its basis lies first in seriously devoting one's body and soul to his master.

Ghost Dog: It is a good viewpoint to see the world as a dream. When you have something like a nightmare, you will wake up and tell yourself that it was only a dream. It is said that the world we live in is not a bit different from this.

Ghost Dog: Among the maxims on Lord Naoshige's wall, there was this one: "Matters of great concern should be treated lightly." Master Ittei commented, "Matters of small concern should be treated seriously."

Ghost Dog: Even if one's head were to be suddenly cut off, he should be able to do one more action with certainty. With martial valor, if one becomes like a revengeful ghost and shows great determination, though his head is cut off, he should not die.

Ghost Dog: In the words of the ancients, one should make his decision within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break through to the other side.

Ghost Dog: There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding extends to everything.

Ghost Dog: Our bodies are given life from the midst of nothingness. Existing where there is nothing is the meaning of the phrase, "form is emptiness." That all things are provided for by nothingness is the meaning of the phrase, "Emptiness is form." One should not think that these are two separate things.

Ghost Dog: When one has made a decision to kill a person, even if it will be very difficult to succeed by advancing straight ahead, it will not do to think about doing it in a long, roundabout way. One's heart may slacken, he may miss his chance, and by and large there will be no success. The Way of the Samurai is one of immediacy, and it is best to dash in headlong.

Ghost Dog: It is said that what is called "the spirit of an age" is something to which one cannot return. That this spirit gradually dissipates is due to the world's coming to an end. In the same way, a single year does not have just spring or summer. A single day, too, is the same. For this reason, although one would like to change today's world back to the spirit of one hundred years or more ago, it cannot be done. Thus it is important to make the best out of every generation.

Pearline: In the Kamigata area they have a sort of tiered lunchbox they use for a single day when flower viewing. Upon returning, they throw them away, trampling them underfoot. The end is important in all things.

Old Consigliere: Indians. N*ggers. Same thing.

Sonny Valerio: Where's he live?

Louie: F***, if I know. That's the next strange thing. I mean, I can't just call him up. Instead, he contacts me every day through a bird.

Sonny Valerio: Did you just say he contacts you through a bird? Did I just hear you say that?

Ghost Dog: Night Nurse? You actually read that?

Pearline: No. I just like the cover.

Pearline: Can't you understand what he's saying?

Ghost Dog: No, I don't understand him. I don't speak French, only English. I never understand a word he says.

Pearline: And that's your best friend?

Ghost Dog: Yeah.

Sonny Valerio: Now is the time to tell us everything you know about this mysterious ghostlike untraceable f***in' button man.

Old Consigliere: It's him. It's the f***in' birdman.

Ray Vargo: Well, I don't know anything about that, but it makes me think about Indians.

Ghost Dog: According to what one of the elders said, taking an enemy on the battlefield is like a hawk taking a bird. Even though it enters into the midst of a thousand of them, it gives no attention to any bird than the one it first marked.

Ghost Dog: There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the moment. A man's whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, there is nothing left to do, and nothing else to pursue.

Louie: Jesus Christ. You just shot Morini. He was Valerio's f***ing brother-in-law.

Ghost Dog: He had a gun. He was going to shoot you.

Louie: What?

Ghost Dog: See if he's dead.

Louie: Well, I don't think he's getting any older.

Louie: Jesus, Vinny. You just iced a woman, you know that?

Vinny: You know what you are, Louie? You're a f***in' male chauvinist pig.

Louie: What do you mean, I'm a male chauvinist pig? You just shot a broad.

Vinny: A cop. I just shot a cop. They wanna be equal? I made her equal.

Vinny: You know Louie, there's one good thing about this Ghost Dog guy.

Louie: What's that Vin?

Vinny: He's sending us out the old way. Like real f***ing gangsters.

I am the punishment of God...If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you

RZA clad as Samurai in Camouflage: Ghost Dog, power, equality.

Ghost Dog: Always see everything, my brother.

Ghost Dog: It is good to carry some powdered rouge in one's sleeve. It may happen that when one is sobering up or waking from sleep, a samurai's complexion may be poor. At such a time it is good to take out and apply some powdered rouge. (01:08:50)

Louie: Nothing seems to make sense anymore.

Louie: For the past four years, he's done maybe 12 perfect contracts. Perfect. Like a ghost.

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Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

1999, Crime/Drama, 1h 56m

What to know

Critics Consensus

An innovative blend of samurai and gangster lifestyles. Read critic reviews

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Ghost dog: the way of the samurai videos, ghost dog: the way of the samurai   photos.

Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker) is a contract killer, a master of his trade who can whirl a gun at warp speed and moves through this world like a phantom -- stealthy and evanescent. In the spirit of the samurai, he has pledged his loyalty to a small time mobster named Louie (John Tormey) who saved his life many years before.

Rating: R (Strong Violence|Language)

Genre: Crime, Drama

Original Language: English

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Producer: Richard Guay , Jim Jarmusch

Writer: Jim Jarmusch

Release Date (Theaters): May 18, 1999  original

Release Date (Streaming): Oct 12, 2016

Box Office (Gross USA): $3.3M

Runtime: 1h 56m

Distributor: Artisan Entertainment

Production Co: Pandora Filmproduktion GmbH, Le Studio Canal +, Bac Films, JVC Entertainment, Degeto Film, Plywood Productions

Sound Mix: Surround, Dolby Digital

Aspect Ratio: Scope (2.35:1)

Cast & Crew

Forest Whitaker

John Tormey

Cliff Gorman

Sonny Valerio

Henry Silva

Isaach de Bankolé

Tricia Vessey

Louise Vargo

Victor Argo

Gene Ruffini

Old Consigliere

Richard Portnow

Handsome Frank

Camille Winbush

Jim Jarmusch

Richard Guay

Diana Schmidt

Co-Producer

Robby Müller

Cinematographer

Jay Rabinowitz

Film Editing

Ellen Lewis

Laura Rosenthal

Production Design

Mario R. Ventenilla

Art Director

Ron von Blomberg

Set Decoration

John A. Dunn

Costume Design

Jude Gorjanc

Assistant Director

Anthony J. Ciccolini III

Sound Designer

Kevin Meehan

Boom Operator

Assistant Sound Editor

Dominic Tavella

Sound Re-Recording Mixer

News & Interviews for Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

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Critic Reviews for Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

Audience reviews for ghost dog: the way of the samurai.

Cool action and filmed well.

hagakure citation ghost dog

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Now Forest Whitaker isn't the kind of guy you would normally think of for a smart ice cool hitman flick. His big lumbering appearance and droopy eye always gives him the look of a bad guy or suit type, not some ninja like assassin. But here we are in dare I say 'Leon' for a black audience? is that wrong of me? cos this sure as hell is what it is. Take the overall premise of 'Leon' and virtually copy it scene for scene and you have 'Ghost Dog' but with a nice samurai code twist. This film is actually based on a very good French film called 'Le Samouraï' which in turn also probably influenced Besson for his New York based hitman classic. Its pretty fair to say when watching that this is heavily influenced by those said films, from the hit sequences to the little girl who 'Ghost Dog' befriends but doesn't train...although that is hinted at somewhat towards the end. Personally I love this film, its could easily be a sequel to 'Leon' and moves just as sexually and gracefully including some excellent hit scenes, albeit a bit brief. The film is kinda slow and builds around 'GD' training in the art of samurai whilst living his simple life caring for pigeons. Your not really sure if your suppose to root for this guy either, he's not doing good stuff after all. He works for the mob and kills people, breaks into properties and steals cars pretty regularly, he doesn't kill innocents but nor does he care too much about them or their material possessions. Trying not to mention other films too much here but when you see the American mobsters in this it rings so many bells. The bad guys are a classic stereotypical cliched lineup of fat, aging, balding, badly dressed 70's looking rejects that could of come from any well known mafia flick you've ever heard of. I loved how they looked and spoke in that typical Nu Joisey/Nu Yawk fashion with their big tinted shades, dated tracksuits or leather coats, absolutely perfect. You could almost think of these guys as a parody really. Almost caricatures and exactly how you expect Italian American hoods to look and act with the addition of great names like 'Handsome Frank' and the all too common names of Vinny, Ray and Louie. The cast are familiar too, all the regular faces that normally play wheezing old fat mafioso's. Their boss is Henry Silva who is pretty much the perfect face for a bad guy, a mafia bad guy. The man is a character acting legend plus his face is evil looking with those sharp cheek bones and odd stretched wrinkle-less like skin complexion, no wonder he was in 'Dick Tracy'. There isn't too much action here like I said but that isn't a problem really. The film moves slow just like its main player and the outcome is resolved quite quickly really. The Japanese filling throughout is a nice touch which is obviously there because of the French film it plays homage to but it neither hinders or helps really, its just nice little touches that are pleasant to view. End of the day the samurai code doesn't really effect the film much apart from what 'GD' allows to happen. Didn't think the film needed the African American influence of rap music though, would of been nice without that, more unique really as the old gangster thing still looms somewhat. Still a unique film though can't dent that. For me the film is made with the stellar casting for the bad guys, they are really quite amusing, Whitaker does well also in his calm near silent role. A must see film if you like this kind of thing but just don't expect tonnes of action.

There were some interesting scenes (namely, when he shot the guy through the sink in his bathroom) but overall I didn't think it was great.

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Why Jim Jarmusch’s “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” Endures as an Unlikely Classic

An unconventional leading man. a revolutionary score. a cross-cultural triumph..

hagakure citation ghost dog

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (IMDB)

All filmmakers reflect the world around them, but few have captured the zeitgeist like director Jim Jarmusch, a soft-spoken New York transplant from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, with the philosophy, “Life has no plot, why must films or fiction?”

The cult hero status accrued by Jarmusch is born from his keen social observations, even when it’s sometimes difficult to decipher what he’s trying to say. That’s particularly true of Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), his urban samurai mob movie classic, which plays at the Hollywood Theatre on Feb. 25.

A film that fascinated movie fans by viewing subcultures through a surreal lens, Ghost Dog ’s seemingly accidental success is arguably due to its groundbreaking score (by RZA) and leading man (Forest Whitaker). “You see, I start with actors that I want to make a character for,” Jarmusch said in a 2011 interview with Louder Than War. “I don’t know what the story is or where it’s going at all. I just sort of jump in and start. In fact, I think I do it backwards.”

Ghost Dog was the product of a chance encounter between Whitaker and Jarmusch at a Super 8 camera store. And Jarmusch didn’t just hire an actor most filmmakers would have scoffed at for such a role: He specifically made the role for him.

Together, the pair concocted a character we’re compelled to root for despite the moral ambiguity and brutality of his job. A hit man with a samurai’s code, the protagonist known only as “Ghost Dog” has a sense of purpose that’s somehow inspiring. And then there’s Whitaker himself, whose portrayal seers the consciousness with little dialogue.

“There’s something about Forest that goes right to my heart,” Jarmusch said in a behind-the-scenes documentary. “There’s something very human and beautiful about his presence.”

Ghost Dog was big in the Black community due to a familiar Afro-Asian cultural theme born from East Coast summer scorchers driving urban Black youths of the ‘70s into air-conditioned grindhouse theaters for double-feature combos like Black Caesar and The Five Fingers of Death .

These Blaxploitation and martial arts films had a profound impact on kids seeing nonwhite heroes for the first time. That led to the emergence of the first Black martial arts leading man, the incomparable Jim Kelly, and a generation of young moviegoers raised to see themselves fighting back against The Man through music and movement.

Enter RZA, founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan, whose music was shaped by those theaters and became the sound Jarmusch sought for the atmosphere of Ghost Dog . At the time, RZA just so happened to be looking for a project to score, spurred by a conversation he’d recently had with Quincy Jones (having never scored a film before, he looked to Peter and the Wolf and Sergei Prokofiev for guidance).

In Ghost Dog , we witness the protagonist’s unyielding loyalty to a feckless gangster (John Tormey) from a crew hanging on to relevance during the waning days of the Italian Mafia. “If one were to say in a word what the condition of being a samurai is, it’s basis lies first in seriously devoting one’s body and soul to his master,” Whitaker narrates from Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai by Yamamoto Tsunetomo.

Jarmusch compared Ghost Dog’s sense of devotion to that of Don Quixote, but it all boils down to finding security in a sense of purpose. In a rapidly changing world that rarely makes sense, it’s a comfort knowing someone like Jarmusch is still diving headfirst into the randomness we struggle to make sense of and taking notes.

The film speaks to so many of us. And like the Ghost Dog’s French-speaking Haitian-immigrant best friend (Isaach de Bankolé), we may not always know what’s being said, but we understand.

SEE IT: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai , rated R, plays at the Hollywood Theatre, 503-493-1128, hollywoodtheatre.org. 7 pm Saturday, Feb. 25. $8-$10.

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  • Movie quotes
  • Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

“Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” quotes

Movie Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

“Taking an enemy on the battlefield is like a hawk taking a bird. Even though it enters into the midst of a thousand of them, it gives no attention to any bird than the one it first marked.” Forest Whitaker - Ghost Dog
“When one has made a decision to kill a person, even if it will be very difficult to succeed by advancing straight ahead, it will not do to think about doing it in a long, roundabout way. One's heart may slacken, he may miss his chance, and by and large there will be no success. The Way of the Samurai is one of immediacy, and it is best to dash...” (continue) (continue reading) Forest Whitaker - Ghost Dog
“- Ghost Dog: I don't understand him. I don't speak French, only English. I never understand a word he says. - Pearline: And that's your best friend? - Ghost Dog: Yeah.” Forest Whitaker - Ghost Dog Forest Whitaker - Pearline
“There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the moment. A man's whole life is a succession of moment after moment. If one fully understands the present moment, there is nothing left to do, and nothing else to pursue .” Forest Whitaker - Ghost Dog
Our bodies are given life from the midst of nothingness. Existing where there is nothing is the meaning of the phrase "Form is emptiness". That all things are provided for by nothingness is the meaning of the phrase "Emptiness is form". One should not think that these are two separate things. Forest Whitaker - Ghost Dog
“There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road . But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning , you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking. This understanding...” (continue) (continue reading) Forest Whitaker - Ghost Dog
“If one were to say in a word what the condition of being a samurai is, its basis lies first in seriously devoting one's body and soul to his master .” Forest Whitaker - Ghost Dog
“- Sonny Valerio: Where's he live? - Louie: Fuck, if I know. That's the next strange thing. I mean, I can't just call him up. Instead, he contacts me every day through a bird. - Sonny Valerio: Did you just say he contacts you through a bird? Did I just hear you say that?!” Cliff Gorman - Sonny Valerio John Tormey - Louie
“It is bad when one thing becomes two. One should not look for anything else in the Way of the Samurai. It is the same for anything that is called a Way. If one understands things in this manner , he should be able to hear about all ways and be more and more in accord with his own.” Forest Whitaker - Ghost Dog
“In the words of the ancients, one should make his decision within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break through to the other side.” Forest Whitaker - Ghost Dog
Among the maxims on Lord Naoshige's wall, there was this one: "Matters of great concern should be treated lightly". Master Ittei commented: "Matters of small concern should be treated seriously". Forest Whitaker - Ghost Dog
“- Sonny Valerio: All the rappers, they got names like that: Snoop Doggy Dogg, Ice Cube, Q- Tip , Method Man. My favorite was always Flavor Flav from Public Enemy. You got the funky fresh fly flavor . - Ray Vargo: I don't know about that, but it makes me think of Indians. They got name like... Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, Running Bear, Black Elk. - Sonny...” (continue) (continue reading) Cliff Gorman - Sonny Valerio Henry Silva - Ray Vargo Gene Ruffini - Old Consigliere
“The Way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily.” Forest Whitaker - Ghost Dog
“It is good to carry some powdered rouge in one's sleeve. It may happen that when one is sobering up or waking from sleep , a samurai's complexion may be poor. At such a time it is good to take out and apply some powdered rouge.” Forest Whitaker - Ghost Dog
“Every day when one's body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears, and swords. Being carried away by surging waves. Being thrown into the midst of a great fire. Being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake . Falling from thousand- foot cliffs, dying of disease, or...” (continue) (continue reading) Forest Whitaker - Ghost Dog
- Sonny Valerio: "If a warrior's head were to be suddenly cut off, he should still be able to perform one more action with certainty". What the fuck does that mean? - Ray Vargo: It's poetry. The poetry of war. Cliff Gorman - Sonny Valerio Henry Silva - Ray Vargo
“It is a good viewpoint to see the world as a dream . When you have something like a nightmare , you will wake up and tell yourself that it was only a dream . It is said that the world we live in is not a bit different from this.” Forest Whitaker - Ghost Dog
“Even if one's head were to be suddenly cut off, he should be able to do one more action with certainty. With martial valor, if one becomes like a revengeful ghost and shows great determination, though his head is cut off, he should not die.” Forest Whitaker - Ghost Dog
“- Louie: Jesus , Vinny. You just iced a woman, you know that? - Vinny: You know what you are, Louie? You're a fuckin' male chauvinist pig. - Louie: What do you mean, I'm a male chauvinist pig? You just shot a broad. - Vinny: A cop . I just shot a cop . They wanna be equal ? I made her equal .” John Tormey - Louie Victor Argo - Vinny
“- Louie: Goddamn it. You shot me in the exact same fucking place as last time! - Ghost Dog: I'm sorry . I mean you no disrespect . You're my retainer. I don't want to put too many holes in you.” John Tormey - Louie Forest Whitaker - Ghost Dog
“In the Kamigata area, they have a sort of tiered lunchbox they use for a single day when flower viewing. Upon returning , they throw them away, trampling them underfoot. The end is important in all things.” Camille Winbush - Pearline
“It is said that what is called the Spirit of an Age is something to which one cannot return. That this spirit gradually dissipates is due to the world's coming to an end. In the same way, a single year does not have just spring or summer. A single day, too, is the same. For this reason, although one would like to change today's world back to the...” (continue) (continue reading) Forest Whitaker - Ghost Dog
“- Ghost Dog: You know, in ancient cultures, bears were considered equal with men. - Hunter: This ain't no ancient culture here , mister. - Ghost Dog: Sometimes it is.” Forest Whitaker - Ghost Dog Tracy Howe - Bear Hunter

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hagakure

Quotes & Passages from Hagakure – The Book Of The Samurai

  • The Andreia Philosophy
  • September 8, 2023

quotes from hagakure

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About The Hagakure

Hagakure Kikigaki, also known as Hagakure, is a book of Samurai wisdom written more than 300 years ago by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, a clerk who served during the age of the Samurai underneath Nabeshima Mitsushige–A Japanese Daimyo. Daimyo is a term for a Feudal leader; someone who possessed land; similar to a King in Feudal society during the middle ages.

Hagakure is broken up into 11 books. The different books feel like different conversations between the Samurai. You’ll see, many pieces of wisdom repeated, or contradicted, which is important because philosophies work uniquely for each individual that adopts them.

Hagakure is a series of insights; wisdom passed down from Lord Nabeshima Mitsushige to Yamamoto Tsunetomo. Even though Yamamoto Tsunetomo is the author of Hagakure, he didn’t compile the wisdom into a book. Yamamoto Tsunetomo engaged in conversation with a man who very little is known about: Tashiro Tsuramoto. This man compiled the conversations with Yamamoto into the book Hagakure we now have today.

Yamamoto Tsunetomo hagakure quotes

Hagakure translates to Hidden Leaves, or hidden by the leaves. This naming convention is in reference to the hidden wisdom of the Samurai. Hagakure was written during a time of peace. Samurai, meaning warrior, were the warrior-class of the era during Tsunetomo’s life. During this time the Samurai didn’t have much purpose–dueling was banned–as was Seppuku–ritual suicide. It was common for a Samurai to follow their master in death by committing ritual suicide. Seppuku, ritual suicide, occurred by slashing open the stomach; believed to allow the soul to travel to heaven so the Samurai could continue serving the master.

Nabeshima Mitsushige, Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s master, hated ritual suicide, and outlawed the practice in his domain. Because of this ban, Yamamoto Tsunetomo, at the event of his master’s death, committed to being a hermit for the rest of his life. At this period Tsunetomo penned Hagakure: his attempt to spread Samurai wisdom and the true Samurai way to younger Samurai.

Hagakure is a book of wisdom for the Samurai. It is a book of honor. Much of the advice listed within will not apply to modern life. But, many quotes and passages from Hagakure do translate to living a good life today. Hagakure is a wonderful book and a fascinating look into the minds of some of the greatest warriors to have ever lived.

Hagakure Quotes

As is usually the case with a man’s training, one will not succeed without being haughtily believing in your true worth as a man of service.
Relying only on cleverness and talents [devoid of single-minded devotion] is a lower form of service.
We can tap into knowledge that serves to steer us away from egotism by studying the aphorisms and deeds of the ancients.
This world is full of cowardly, spineless men who think only of self-gratification and satisfying their own greedy desires.
Presenting one’s opinions to others to help them rectify their faults is an important act of great compassion, and is the duty of a retainer.
In offering one’s opinion, one must first ascertain whether or not the recipient is in the right frame of mind to receive counsel.
If a bad habit has become ingrained over many years, it cannot be remedied easily.
It is good practice to think things through when going to visit somebody.
It is generally best to avoid visiting somebody unexpectedly when you have no business there.
The prepared warrior is not only able to solve problems in a quick and commendable fashion by virtue of his life experience, but he can react appropriately through his comprehension of measures to meet any scenario. He is always ready.
The pulse of a man is different to that of a woman.
There are few who can be thought of as a real man. This means that one man can surpass others by making just a small effort.
A mind ‘free of thought’ (munen) is one that is pure with ‘correct thought’ (shōnen).”
The point is to have correct thoughts without letting evil thoughts manifest.
Generally, a man who is not of a suitable high standing to speak his mind to his lord, but does so anyway, is disloyal.
Knowing the Way is to know your own faults.
Some people like to talk big, but act in a way that doesn’t match their words.
The middle path is generally the best way, but with regards to samurai engaged in martial affairs, this will not do. The samurai must strive to outdo others.
Winning from the outset is the only way to attain victory in the end.
Cowardly behavior learnt during boyhood will remain ingrained as a lifelong flaw.
Be clear in stating your opinion if you disagree with what is being said.
be mindful of where you are and who is around you when you are chatting.
You are a coward if you harbor a fear of failure when conducting your duties.
Never spurn a person who has shown you favor in the past.
A samurai’s word is harder than metal. Once I have decided something, not even the gods can change it. Moro’oka Hiko’uemon, 26 year old Samurai at the time of this quote.
A calculating man is a coward. This is because he considers everything from the perspective of loss and gain, and his mind never deviates from this track.
One cannot accomplish great exploits in a normal frame of mind.
When challenged by adversity, charge onwards with courage and jubilation.
There is no need to reveal all that is on your mind. Your qualities will be apparent through your daily actions.
Nothing is impossible. With single-minded resolve (ichinen), heaven and earth can be moved as one pleases. There is nothing that cannot be achieved.
Be conversant with wise men, and seek lessons in morality from them.
A samurai who does not care much for his reputation tends to be contrary, is conceited, and good-for-nothing. He is inferior to a samurai who craves glory, and is thus completely unusable.
It is a timorous coward who winces at an important task and withdraws because of the danger. If you meet with failure in your mission despite your best efforts, it will be lauded as an honorable death.
Those who revel when times are good will wither in adversity.
Ittei said, “If I were to describe in a word what it means to do ‘good’ as a samurai, it is to withstand hardship. To not endure suffering is sinful.”
According to an old retainer: “A samurai should be excessively obstinate. Anything done in moderation will fall short of your goals. If you feel that you are doing more than is needed, it will be just right.”
You need nothing more than to maintain a pure mind, and stay vigilant as you execute your duties. Just live for each moment with single-minded purpose.
Success gained too early in life will not endure.
The extent of one’s courage or cowardice cannot be measured in ordinary times. All is revealed when something happens.
A man’s life is very short, so it is best to do what he enjoys most.
When someone blathers incessantly, it is probably an indication that something else is on his mind.
The thrust of one’s spear will be ineffective if lacking in fighting spirit.
One cannot advance without great courage.
The more hardship, the better.
There is nothing worse than having regrets. All samurai should take care not to do anything they will repent later.
Anything is achievable through single-minded endeavor (bannō-isshin).

Hagakure Passages

Yamamoto Tsunetomo hagakure passages

A certain man said, “There are two kinds of willpower: internal and external. A man who is deficient in either will be ineffectual. It is like a sword blade that’s sharpened and then stored in its scabbard. Every so often it is unsheathed to test its cutting power on an eyebrow, wiped clean, and then put away again. If a man is constantly swinging his sword about, others will keep their distance, and he will make no friends. A sword always inside its scabbard, however, will rust and become dull. Analogous to this, people will belittle a man who never reveals his power of will.”
Although presumptuous of me as a hermit, one who has taken the holy orders, not once have I desired to attain Buddhahood in death; instead, I only want to be reincarnated seven times as a Nabeshima clansman, with the determination resolutely etched in my gut to uphold the tranquillity of the Saga domain.
The following is my own professed oath: I will never fall behind others in pursuing the Way of the warrior. I will always be ready to serve my lord. I will honor my parents. I will serve compassionately for the benefit of others. By chanting these four oaths (shiseigan) every morning and night to the deities and to Buddha, you will become imbued with double your strength, and will never lag behind.
Yawning in the presence of others is impolite. If the urge to yawn suddenly arises, rub your forehead in an upward stroke to suppress it. If this is not enough to restrain the yawn, use the tip of your tongue to lock your lips shut, and cover your gaping mouth with your hand or sleeve to conceal it from others. Sneezes should also be stifled. Sneezes and yawns make you look very silly. There are many other points of etiquette that you should be mindful of at all times.
Master Jōchō pondered tasks for the coming day and wrote them down. Being organized keeps you a step ahead of others. When scheduled to meet somebody the following day, make a careful assessment the night before, contemplating appropriate greetings, topics of conversation, and points of etiquette.
Lord Yagyū once said, “I do not know how to defeat others. All I know is the path to defeat myself. Today one must be better than yesterday, and tomorrow better than today. The pursuit of perfection is a lifelong quest that has no end.”
There is a lesson to be learned from a downpour of rain. If you get caught in a sudden cloudburst, you will still get a drenching even though you try to keep dry by hurrying along and taking cover under overhangs of roofs. If you are prepared to get wet from the start, the result is still the same but it is no hardship. This attitude can be applied to all things.
It is said: “When you make a mistake, never hesitate to correct it.” A wrongdoing can be rectified immediately if you are quick to address the problem. It will look worse if you try to cover it up, and you will suffer more.
An ancient saying goes: “Think, and decide in seven breaths.” Lord Takanobu commented: “One’s judgement will diminish with prolonged deliberation.” Lord Naoshige said: “Matters decided at a leisurely pace will turn out badly seven times out of ten.
There is no point in one’s training in which one reaches the end. The instant you think you have finished, you have already strayed from the path. Realize that nothing you do is perfect until you have taken your last breath; then, when you are dead, you will be seen as having completed the Way.
I kept a diary when I was young, and called it “A Record of Regrets.” In it, I logged the mistakes that I made each day. Not a day passed when I didn’t commit 20 or 30 gaffes. There was no end to what I had to document because of my incessant blundering, so I eventually stopped. Now, when I reflect on each day before retiring, there is not one that is free of slip-ups in word and action. Indeed, it seems that a perfect day is impossible to pull off. Men who wriggle their way through life relying on their talents will fail to grasp this.
All that matters is having single-minded purpose (ichinen), in the here and now. Life is an ongoing succession of ‘one will’ at a time, each and every moment. A man who realizes this truth need not hurry to do, or seek, anything else anymore. Just live in the present with single-minded purpose. People forget this important truth, and keep seeking other things to accomplish.
I would proffer to physicians that if people who are sickly suppress their sexual desires for six months, or a year or two, they will recuperate without need of any special treatment. Most young men are weak-willed. It is woeful that they lack willpower to control their carnal urges [for the sake of their wellbeing].
As the saying goes: “The more water there is, the higher the boat rises.” A competent man, or one engrossed in a pursuit he enjoys, will relish the challenge of surmounting difficulties. There is a huge difference between these men, and those who feel as though they are drowning when the going gets tough.

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COMMENTS

  1. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

    Ghost Dog [edit]. The Way of the Samurai is found in death. Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day when one's body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great ...

  2. Journal of Religion & Film

    Hagakure) and a devotee of the Samurai way. He spends his days communing with animals and two characters who inject large doses of humanity into the film: Pearline (a little girl who shares Ghost Dog's love of books) and Raymond (Ghost Dog's best friend even though Raymond is Haitian and speaks only French while Ghost Dog speaks only English).

  3. Ghost Dog All Hagakure Quotes

    Quotes from the book Hagakure - The Way of the Samurai as featured in the film Ghost Dog⏱ Timestamps0:00 The Way of the Samurai is found in death0:49 It is b...

  4. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

    Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is a 1999 crime drama film written, produced and directed by Jim Jarmusch. Forest Whitaker stars as the title character, the mysterious "Ghost Dog", a hitman in the employ of the Mafia, who follows the ancient code of the samurai as outlined in the book of Yamamoto Tsunetomo 's recorded sayings, Hagakure.

  5. Hagakure

    Quotations from Hagakure are used as a narrative device in the 1999 American gangster film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai . Editions Hagakure: The Secret Wisdom of the Samurai, Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Translated by Alexander Bennett, Tuttle Publishing, 2014, ISBN 978-4-8053-1198-1 (Full Translation)

  6. Bring home Jim Jarmusch's philosophical warrior tale "Ghost Dog: The

    Originally released in 1999, writer/director Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is the latest film to receive the Criterion treatment. The film is a rare oddity in that is very much of its period, yet is absolutely timeless. It's not just that the poetry Jarmusch pulls from Hagakure: The Book of the…

  7. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)

    Quotes Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai Edit Ghost Dog: There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet.

  8. Jim Jarmusch's Aesthetics of Sampling in Ghost Dog-The Way of the S

    his acculturation echoes Ghost Dog's, who is to a certain extent integrated in a subgroup of the Italian-American community. Moreover, the film-maker articulates the plot around aphorisms taken from Hagakure recited in voice-overs by Forest Whitaker which help define Ghost Dog's character and motives. As for his opponents, Jarmusch embeds extracts from cartoons to introduce or comment on ...

  9. Revisit: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

    When we first met Ghost Dog he is reading Hagakure, Yamamoto Tsunetomo's spiritual handbook for samurai. He takes these teachings to heart as Jarmusch interrupts the film 14 times to superimpose elements of the code Ghost Dog follows, each teaching appearing and disintegrating like a koan on the screen. It is a riddle of sorts.

  10. Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

    Hagakure ("In the Shadow of Leaves") is a manual for the samurai classes consisting of a series of short anecdotes and reflections that give both insight and instruction-in the philosophy and...

  11. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

    Therefore, Ghost Dog seems to be a self-conscious film, which tries to share its spirituality with its viewers by forcing them to read quotes from the Hagakure. The chaotic environment that surrounds Ghost Dog is in a large part due to the collision of different cultures. Ghost Dog himself is a product of such a cultural clash.

  12. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai Quotes

    Whitaker is Ghost Dog, a mysterious New York hit man who lives simply on a tenement rooftop and follows a code of behavior outlined in Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai (passages of this book are interspersed throughout the film).

  13. Ghost Dog as International Sampler

    The fourteen Hagakure quotations offered over the course of Ghost Dog suggest a similar metaphysical conceit—meeting a desire for discipline and purity, a need to reduce uncertainty by limiting all understanding to a single book outlining a single way of life, a sort of primer that might also be seen as reflecting Jarmusch's own long-standing em...

  14. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

    Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. Jim Jarmusch combined his love for the ice-cool crime dramas of Jean-Pierre Melville and Seijun Suzuki with the philosophical dimensions of samurai mythology for an eccentrically postmodern take on the hit-man thriller. In one of his defining roles, Forest Whitaker brings a commanding serenity to his portrayal ...

  15. Hagakure

    Hagakure, as read by Forest Whitaker In Ghost Dog : Way of the SamuraiWritten By : Yamamoto TsunetomoSamples from RZA

  16. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

    Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker) is a contract killer, a master of his trade who can whirl a gun at warp speed and moves through this world like a phantom -- stealthy and evanescent. In the spirit of ...

  17. Hagakure Quotes by Yamamoto Tsunetomo

    Hagakure Quotes Showing 1-30 of 99. "There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man's whole life is a succession of moment after moment. There will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. Live being true to the single purpose of the moment.". ― Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure: The Book of the ...

  18. Why Jim Jarmusch's "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" Endures as an

    That's particularly true of Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999), his urban samurai mob movie classic, which plays at the Hollywood Theatre on Feb. 25. A film that fascinated movie fans by ...

  19. "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" quotes

    Plot - Ghost Dog lives in a hut on the top of a building with his beloved pigeons. His daytime is marked by the rules of an ancient samurai code and by his duty as a killer. He works for boss Louie in fact. Ghost Dog's technique is simple: he locates the victim, he carries out the task then he sends Louie a pigeon to inform him the job is done.

  20. Quotes & Passages from Hagakure

    Hagakure is a book of wisdom for the Samurai. It is a book of honor. Much of the advice listed within will not apply to modern life. But, many quotes and passages from Hagakure do translate to living a good life today. Hagakure is a wonderful book and a fascinating look into the minds of some of the greatest warriors to have ever lived ...

  21. The 21 Best Hagakure Quotes

    21 of the best book quotes from Hagakure. "Throughout your life advance daily, becoming more skillful than yesterday more skillful than today. This is never-ending.". "It is a mistake to put forth effort and obtain some understanding and then stop at that.". "Imitating another style is simply a sham.". "If by setting one's heart ...

  22. Hagakure extraits du film Ghost dog

    Source : Film Ghost Dog

  23. Ghost Dog Meditation Scene

    Meditation scene featuring Forest Whitaker from Jim Jarmusch's film "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai" (1999).