Talk is cheap — otherwise Henry Jaglom couldn’t afford to make movies. In the last 20 years, this little-known wonder has written, directed, and occasionally starred in eight low-budget films that feature characters chattering endlessly about their deepest, darkest subtexts. Frustrating and amusing, ridiculous and challenging, Jaglom’s movies are cheaper but more emotionally ambitious than nearly anything that comes out of the major studios. That alone makes them worth seeing, and one of home video’s advantages is that something this oddball can be seen outside the urban art houses. They’re also very funny, however, and that only enhances their appeal.
Jaglom films are about the ugly, messy, and comical depths to which people go in order to rationalize their fears. Jaglom takes it for granted that modern man has surrounded himself with B.S. What he’s interested in is separating the B.S. that keeps us sane from the B.S. that keeps us from connecting.
Someone to Love is probably the best Jaglom film to start with, a charming, user-friendly pseudo-documentary in which the director invites his single friends to a Valentine’s Day party, turns a camera on, and asks them to reflect on why they’re still alone. The reactions vary: Some of them spill their guts, some tell him to shove it, and some spend their time picking up other people. The cast includes a few semi-celebrities (Sally Kellerman, Andrea Marcovicci, singer Stephen Bishop), and Jaglom undercuts the pretense by going for laughs at everyone’s expense, including his own. Sure, the whole setup is faked — all that found dialogue has been carefully rehearsed — but that’s why, at the end, Jaglom wheels out Orson Welles, his old pal and the unchallenged master of B.S. In his last moments on celluloid, Welles sits there, big as a house, and rants about himself, moviemaking, love, the inherent fraud of trying to capture life on film: It’s a lovely ending and well worth the price of a rental.
Still, it’s because he makes an art form out of self-conscious yammering that this director divides audiences so sharply: Depending on your point of view, Jaglom’s either one of the best-kept secrets in independent filmmaking or a pox upon it, a lucid, funny ironist or a self-indulgent whiner. He’s all of those, of course. That’s what makes his movies interesting. A