The rise of technology and newer entertainment formats has left behind a number of movies, some of which never graduated to VHS, DVD or even cable. One of those “forgotten” movies has recently hit DVD and Blu-Ray from the fine folks at Kino Lorber, the micro-indie “The Search For One-Eyed Jimmy.” Of course, this particular film benefitted from having a stellar cast, most of whom are regularly working today, which has helped the picture rise above the number of undistributed films during the indie boom era. Of course, once you finish the film, you’ll wonder exactly how so much talent got together to amount to so little.
Holt McCallany stars as Les, a film student returning to Brooklyn to make a documentary about where he grew up. It speaks volumes that his claims of being a filmmaker are met with oohs and aahs rather than mockery or concern. His efforts are earnest and unfocused, and he realizes he has no topic, instead just focusing the camera on whichever larger-than-life characters happen to be around. Slowly (improvisationally?) a narrative begins to form, as residents in the area discuss the legend of wayward slacker Jimmy (Sam Rockwell, briefly), who has a glass-eye and a friendly temperment and has mysteriously vanished over the last few days.
What follows is a series of skits where McCallany plays straight man to an all-star collection of eccentric oddballs, all of whom have their own story and theories regarding One-Eyed Jimmy, and all who crave a moment in front of the camera. Samuel L. Jackson is a highlight as a delusional Vietnam vet with a fried brain, while John Turturro gets to clown around in a bodysuit as a disco-dancing nonsense-spewer showcasing the DNA that would later be shared with Jesus Quintana. A salty Tony Sirico gets to freestyle as a local “businessman” with less sense than he has dollars, while Jimmy’s brother and mother are portrayed by a concerned Steve Buscemi (in a mandatory early nineties indie-film appearance) and Anne Meara, the funny would-be heart of the film.
In spite of all these stars, would you believe director Sam Henry Kass felt the desire to focus the spotlight more on Michael Badalucco and Nicolas Turturro? The two are accomplished actors, no doubt, but Kass features them as the standout performances, and both are clearly indulging their absolute schticky worst. Badalucco, an actor of undeniable presence, is the butt of a series of fat jokes as Joe Head, the local goofball who remains five minutes behind everyone else in conversation, wiggling his jelly frame in the corner of every scene in baby blue sweatpants. Turturro becomes the voice of Les’ film as the motor-mouthed Junior, a wannabe gangsta rocking thick, ugly jewelry, with thick studded glasses provided by an optometrist when they clearly could have been procured from a joke store. Both play different ends of the fast-talking schmuck spectrum, and the film comes to a halt as the two of them have constant rap sessions while the talented McCallany (so good on FX‘s canceled “Lights Out“) simply watches.
‘One-Eyed Jimmy,’ like most indies of that era, has a real sense of time and place that makes this DVD release something of a time capsule. No one is making this sort of low-ambition micro-indie anymore, unless they’re purposely shooting for low-fi naturalism. The film’s manic comic rhythms feel like a celebration of the picture’s low-fi aesthetic, and there’s little demeaning about the film’s appreciation of the borough. A late film house party does a lot to erase the interminable tomfoolery of Badalucco and Turturro, suggesting that these people are both naive and genuinely hopeful that their shared glee can rescue Jimmy from whichever Hell has swallowed him.
Howver, like most flawed indie picture of the era, ‘Jimmy’ closes with a nose-thumbing epilogue that not only confirms Joe and Junior as our would-be heroes, but also suggests that their own lives could become big-screen fodder. The moment is sobering, an acknowledgement that, in the early days of the indie movement, there was the suggestion that anyone with a camera could have broken through as an example of the counterculture. Technology has eased the roadblocks to the creativity of young filmmakers today, but there are no such illusions about the appeal of any sort of counterculture to the mainstream. It’s only fitting that the film’s two most intolerable characters in the film head off into the sunset with delusions of grandeur. [C]
“The Search For One Eyed Jimmy” is now available on DVD and BluRay.