Playing out as a sort of melancholy walkabout, staged almost entirely in and around the East Village loft apartment where the director grew up and his Boho artist/filmmaker parents still reside, and starring those same said parents as themselves, avant-garde heir apparent Azazel Jacobs has created what is surely one of, if not the most personal American film of 2008. Momma's Man, the somewhat moribund, but sprightly so follow-up to his Nouvelle Vague-esque live-action rom-com cartoon The GoodTimesKid, is a cinepsycho regression, both figuratively and (nearly) literally back into the womb as protag and director-doppelganger Matt Boren visits his parents (played, as mentioned, by Jacobs' own rents Ken and Flo Jacobs) only to find, much like the party guests from Bu˝uel's El ┴ngel exterminador, he cannot bring himself to leave and return to his own wife and child, all the time reverting further and further back until the film ends with Boren's overgrown Mikey absurdly crying in the lap of his momma. Save for the lack of Catholic overtones, it could very well be a scene right out of Bu˝uel.
As far as aesthetics go, Jacobs' film, unlike his last much bouncier work, plays out like post-Tarr Van Sant with its relaxed camera and big brother-esque intrusions into this private and very personal world. Whereas The GoodTimesKid was a living embodiment of cinematic love and joy, Momma's Man is the ghostly other side of the mirror. Like a spectral force sapping the unadulterated joy from Jacobs' oeuvre and turning it into a darker (though there are several completely hilarious moments) bleaker cinema. Not necessarily for better or for worse though, just a different kind of cinema. But then again, bleak or not, unlike Van Sant, we are almost left off the hook with Jacobs' final moments release.
J. Hoberman, writing in The Village Voice, gives his own personal slant on this already very personal film, by talking of actually hanging out in the very apartment Jacobs' grew up and filmed his movie in, when he was a young film writer and student and town crier of avant-garde cinema. His insight into the film may, by virtue of his laying hands on so to speak, have a much greater resonance than others writing on the film, such as I, but the feelings of the film itself - the fear of growing up, the contempt toward societal norms, the inherent physio-psychological dangers of life - are so universal, especially in such a heady modern age as this, that, personal filmmaking or not, Jacobs' Momma's Man entrenches itself into your very psyche and as it winds its way through the childhood regression of its protagonist (life itself acting as the big boogie-man antagonist), a keen lithesome camera eye acting as tour guide through the rafter-hanging bicycles and wind-up toys and hidden teenaged guitars and secret long lost love notes and seemingly endless piles of magazines, newspapers and film reels that actually populate this loft of counter-culture artistic experimentality, grabs you up and takes you along for the sometimes funny, sometimes devastating cinema home movie-cum-East Village nostalgia carousel that it is.
Simultaneously tragically cozy and comfortably suffocating, Jacobs' film, an articulately subtle work of art, as much anti-cinematic as it is cinematic (his previous GoodTimesKid was pure and unadulterated cinema, even if in the most eclectic of ways) is possibly the most profound reply to the Mumblecored downsizing of the non-Hollywood (and by Hollywood, I also mean that two-headed creature known as the studio independent) American film scene. Though far from easily pigeon-holed into genre, Jacobs' cinema can easily be described as American independent cinema born - very literally - unto itself. [09/26/08]