Back in January 2007, I remember spotting this New York Times review of Azazel Jacob’s “The GoodTimesKid” written by Matthew Zoller Seitz. It wasn’t just that Seitz called the film an “unexpectedly beguiling romantic comedy” “descended from Jacques Tati and Jim Jarmusch” that compelled me to see the movie, but it was something about this picture of Sara Diaz in mid quirky dance step (beguiling, perhaps) that utterly transfixed me.
But it wasn’t until recently that I finally watched “The GoodTimesKId” along with some other films by Azazel Jacobs in preperation for this Village Voice interview (in conjunction with next week’s BAM series and the Aug. 22nd release of his Sundance critics favorite “Momma’s Man.”)
I sat down with Azazel and his father Ken Jacobs, the avant-garde luminary and celebrated film teacher, for a congenial conversation that traversed several topics, including Azazel’s work in relation to his father’s and his penchant for self-reflexivity (derived, in part, from a frequently watched print of “Hellzapoppin,” the 1941 madcap comedy, that was lying around the Jacobs loft when he was a kid).
I liked “GoodTimesKid” as much as I hoped, with its mix of dry minimalist humor and hopelessness, and was pleasantly surprised by Azazel’s subversive Slamdance-winning short “Kirk and Kerry” (available to watch here), which shows a dysfunctional Cassavetes-like couple falling apart, all the while blurring the distinction between character and actor. Admittedly, I never did get through his debut feature “Nobody Needs to Know” (available here), but I still don’t have the patience for watching anything feature-length on my computer, so it’s not the film’s fault. I’ve written fondly about “Momma’s Man” elsewhere on this blog here.
From what I’ve seen, Jacobs is distinct from the boatloads of no-budget filmmakers in that he successfully manages a near impossible balance of indie quirk and sophisticated sentiment–finding its most mature evocation in “Momma’s Man.”
Alternative cinema has no shortage of confused, mired young depressos, but Azazel’s work comes from an authentic, rebellious spirt that feels authentic, or at least, transparent. If many of the mumblecore films feel too insular or adolescent or if other more stylized indies can often alienate their audience, Azazel often hits that ineffable sweet spot, where constructed oddities and emotional truths miraculously work together.