Azazel Jacobs
USA 2003, 95 min.

A piercing portrait of New York, its streets and views, is folded intelligently in with a story of a young New York actress struggling to escape the shallowness of the acting world, heightened by a subtle sub-theme of almost Warholian filmed auditions.

First-time feature filmmaker Azazel Jacobs (son of experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs) skillfully interweaves several strands of New York life. The city itself is a central character, portrayed in delicious black-and-white. A young black man narrates the film, observing the action as he seemingly is able to penetrate the city’s all-pervasive surveillance camera network—traveling anywhere he wants, seeing anything he wants. We watch a pretentious, clueless young director as he auditions actresses by forcing them through a ridiculous death scene, and becomes obsessed with the one who walked away. And last but not least is Iris, a young actress so disenchanted by an audition for a pretentious young director that she up and quits—struggling to find another way to just be herself, in contrast to her roommate who still dreams of being a star. While he works with some dangerously familiar motifs of the American indie cinema (agonizing young actresses, the making of films about the making of movies), Jacobs painstakingly crafted feature slashes through all the clichés, always offering a completely convincing and sympathetic portrait of his young New Yorkers and their scene, always keeping us involved. The auditions in particular make fascinating, and often hilarious, performance pieces within the film itself.

-Tod Booth