Momma's Man

"Excellent"

Momma's Man Review


The utterance of the name "Ken Jacobs" might not set off alarms in the casual movie fan's psyche, but to any admirer of the avant garde (or survivor of 1960s Manhattan), you might as well be taking the lord's name in vein. Known for cinema collages that mix all varieties and manners of aesthetic manipulation and filmic language, Jacobs came about as a ravenous collector of cultural rarities around the same time Jack Smith and Andy Warhol ruled the NY art scene with a powder-white fist. Earlier this year the filmmaker released Razzle Dazzle, a manipulated study of repetition that I first saw at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival, but he's most known for spectacles like Blonde Cobra, The Georgetown Loop, and Star Spangled to Death, the experimental cinema equivalent of Gravity's Rainbow.

The quintessential New York lunatic who ended up teaching film studies in Binghamton, Jacobs appears on screen as the pater familias of a son who can't leave his childhood home in downtown Manhattan in Momma's Man, the third feature by the filmmaker's son Azazel Jacobs. Both metaphorically and literally a womb, the elder Jacobs' oddity of an apartment serves as the setting where Mikey (Matt Boren) arrives to visit his parents (Jacobs and mother Flo) for a weekend in their old school art space in Tribeca, where he spent his formative years.

What begins as a forward retreat back to his wife Laura (Dana Varon) and newborn child back in Los Angeles turns into an obsessive overstay as Matt begins to dig through his old comic books, toys, and clothing, taking in long bouts of sleeping in between. A bizarre encounter with an old friend and trips to famous ultra-dive bar The Patriot mark his only connection with the outside world save brief spats with his wife. The awkward peak comes when he meets up with an old high school flame at a coffee shop to apologize for a long-forgotten incident.

One of the highlights of both this year's Sundance Film Festival and New York's New Directors/New Films Festival, Momma's Man eludes convention at almost every turn. The reasoning behind his prolonged absence from his family and life is never fully discussed. Matt's mother passive-aggressively nudges him towards his wife while his father takes the direct approach, asking him often why he's still there. Matt possesses an index of excuses for his job, his wife, and his parents but the absence of easy reasoning to his residency gives Jacobs' film a subtle hint of terror.

Boren plays his character with a sluggish obnoxiousness, a pig's sensibility and a strange streak of naïveté. He's a comic horror but he's oddly endearing. Matt could be any number of things: the great embodiment of the baby boomers, the whining, sniveling child that all men are at the end of the day, maybe even the zombie prince of Giuliani's spic-and-span New York. That the director never plays towards his metaphors shows maturity and assurance as a filmmaker. It reveals young Mr. Jacobs as a born storyteller rather than a bag full of ideologies.

Perhaps Azazel isn't the mad scientist his father is, but one thing becomes clear after Momma's Man: It's in the blood. Shooting in scratchy 35mm conjures up the ghosts of '60s cinema, when his father was coming up, and to say that there isn't an autobiographical bent to this film would be foolish. Past that, surrounded by pulley systems for clothes lines, rusted wind-up toys, collections of useless tools and playthings, kitchenware from every decade, and two loopy artist parents lies the rejected east coaster on holiday from being an Angeleno. In his simple, minimalist way, Mr. Jacobs has fashioned the quintessential interior New York film.

It's time for you to get your own room, son.



Momma's Man

Facts and Figures

Run time: 94 mins

In Theaters: Friday 8th May 2009

Distributed by: Kino International

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Fresh: 41 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 6.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Azazel Jacobs

Producer: Hunter Gray, Alex Orlovsky

Starring: Matt Boren as Mikey, Flo Jacobs as Mom, Ken Jacobs as Dad

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