Comedian (USA, 2002)

comedian-movie-poster-2002-1020203580Directed by: Christian Charles. As a Seinfeld fan, I had been meaning to watch this for some years. But as a cautious viewer, I was worried that it would be one of those vaguely masturbatory “great man” documentaries that pop up fairly often about artists of different stripes. Ultimately, I was hoping that Comedian would take Jerry as a vehicle for exploring some of the deeper philosophy behind comedy as an artform and the people who live it every day. Looking back, I suppose this film slants further into the latter category than the former, thank god. It was interesting to see Seinfeld at this stage in his career: TV show over, scrapping all of his old material, completely out of confidence, starting at square one in comedy clubs. It was pointed out several times in the film that Jerry had the advantage of familiarity and celebrity, but as he retorts, that’s about all he has, and it’s not enough. I really felt like I was with him there, trying to win the crowds with new material, forgetting the cues, yet slowly regaining his confidence. The secondary plot with Orny Adams is also pretty fascinating, if a little hard to watch. His personality is so extreme that I wondered if he wasn’t a plant to make the documentary more interesting. Watching him foil against Jerry is pretty amazing, and I appreciate it all the more because he doesn’t take over the film: the director wisely allows him his role, and then gives us a break. Ultimately, I’m rooting for both of them to succeed, even if I don’t really know why. This film also gets big points for pairing a jazz soundtrack to gorgeously offhand establishing shots of Manhattan streets with snowdrifts against the sidewalks, which I wish I saw a lot more of in the movies. Also, this is another addition to what I coined the “filmella” form, starting with The Girlfriend Experience a few months ago, and clocking in at just over an hour. I’d like to see more of those for sure.

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