Azazel Jacobs – Momma’s Man (2008)

One of the Best Films of 2008 –Entertainment Weekly, Time Out NY, NY Post

modestly scaled movie with a heart the size of the Ritz – New York Times

Momma’s Man, directed by Azazel Jacobs from his own screenplay, is one of the sweetest, saddest stories Franz Kafka never wrote.

….Aza Jacobs isn’t the first filmmaker to direct his parents. John Huston’s father Walter had a major role in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; Zoe Cassavetes and her brother Nick have each directed their mother, Gena Rowlands; Martin Scorsese made a documentary about his parents and regularly gave them cameos. Plenty of people base films on family history but, so far as I know, Momma’s Man is alone in approaching psychodrama by having the parents play themselves. And while many avant-garde filmmakers have made movies about their children, the younger Jacobs is the first of these kids to turn the camera on Dad in a feature-length narrative.

Momma’s Man is highly specific, evoking not only the filmmaker’s lost childhood but also the heroic New York art scene that had already begun to fade when the now 35-year-old Azazel Jacobs was a boy. But it is even more powerfully universal. Much comic pathos arises from the realization that Mikey has no perspective on his parents. They are as mysterious in their idiosyncrasies as anyone’s. (And with his doughy physique and placid moon face, Boren gives the impression of an eternal child, if not one produced by this particular Mom and Dad.) Mikey’s prolonged visit is not so much a regression as a blissful immersion in some pre-analytical Eden. Cluttered with charged objects, the magic loft is in itself an image of childhood. Mikey raptly rummages through his stuff, finding a costume cape, some angst-ridden teenage letters, and an old guitar. Quietly, he sings one of his high-school songs: “Fuck, fuck, fuck you—hope you die, too.”

From the movie’s first shot—a tight close-up of Mikey and Mom’s interlocked hands—Momma’s Man radiates unconditional affection. Unlike the Albert Brooks character in Brooks’s not dissimilar Mother, Mikey doesn’t have to struggle for parental love. On the contrary, he’s helpless in the face of their concern. More touching than Mikey’s attachment to his parents is the degree to which they bask in his pudgy presence and, against all reason, yearn for him to stay in their world. The key image has all three lying in bed raptly watching an old movie on TV. (In a sinister joke, it seems to be Chaplin’s comedy of murder, Monsieur Verdoux.)

Bumped from his return flight, Mikey is initially confounded by airline bureaucracy. Soon, however, he is inventing reasons to stay in this nutty paradise. He ignores the increasingly desperate messages left by his abandoned wife (Dana Varon), preferring to sit in wintry Hudson River Park or lie on his narrow little bed in his semi-private corner of the loft, reading comic books, warding off dread, and letting his beard grow. Dad tries to amuse him by playing an old 78 (“Crazy Blues”) or demonstrating a new crawling toy purchased in Chinatown. Few things in the movie are funnier than Dad’s expectant smile and Mikey’s blank-faced appreciation; nothing is more poignant than Mom’s heartfelt assurance: “You can stay here as long as you want.”

A bid for Kafkaesque happiness? Underscored by Mandy Hoffman’s pensive, dryly whimsical piano compositions, Mikey’s breakdown has the quality of a wistful nightmare. Space is elusive. The loft seems at once vast and claustrophobic and, although the viewer is treated to many slow pans, its geography is never clear. Mikey is forever spotting portents in the clutter or receiving mysterious bulletins (from the TV, the cell phone, and his own unconscious). In one unsuccessful attempt to leave the loft, he waits until his parents are asleep; perhaps they’ll think they only imagined his visit. Late in the movie, the filmmaker suggests that this child’s dream is, in fact, a childhood dream. In a haunting bit of ancient footage, the actual little Azazel is seated at the same round wooden table that functions as the loft’s fulcrum, head down, asleep beside an unfinished plate of spaghetti.

2.54GB | 1h 38m | 1024×552 | mkv’s_Man.mkv


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