One of the most defiant films I saw at the Sundance Film Festival this year was director Rick Alverson’s “The Comedy,” a title oozing irony but boasting a weird, wooly ensemble that includes Tim & Eric, LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, actress Kate Lyn Sheil and comedian Jeff Jensen. The film itself was sort of a f*ck-you to traditional, protagonist-led dramatic narratives. It was built off of an 18-page treatment with almost all of it room for improvisation, and little-to-no script .
It is funny, yes, but loosely angers, too, with Heidecker’s perfectly portrayed 35-year-old Williamsburg ass-clown who won the birth lottery and has a boat. He and his idling creative division of friends fill their time amusing themselves sometimes to the discomfort of others – not because they’re malicious people, mind you, but because otherwise they just might get bored. Heidecker’s dead-eyed lead voyeuristically dabbles in the world of hard labor and “normal people” jobs like washing dishes in between drinking, screwing and playing wiffle ball.
Just because the film is largely unpleasant doesn’t make it a bad film. It’s not. Heidecker’s numb repugnance also reveals a child-like soul. He’s the sort of guy I wouldn’t be friends with but, yeah sure, I’d go to his party if he threw one. It darkly reveals something in the viewer, which required such a strangely familiar cast and, even more so, the backing of its vision.
Independent record label Jagjaguwar was that backer, in conjunction with Glass Eye Pix and Greyshack Productions. And after “The Comedy” bowed at Sundance this week, it found a partner in Danny McBride’s Rough House Pictures, which formed in 2009 to produce/present high-end comedies.
Jagjaguwar, mind you, isn’t known for movies. It and its sister labels Secretly Canadian and Dead Oceans count Bon Iver, Okkervil River, Dinosaur Jr., Antony and the Johnsons, Akron/Family and Yeasayer among its powerful ranks. Last year, SeCa released its first comedy album, Tig Notaro’s “Good One.” The labels’ co-founders linked with Ami Spishock last year to form Fort William Artist Management, with the likes of Grizzly Bear, Beirut and Van Dyke Parks, among others under its arm. The labels have their own distribution company (SC Distribution, which is also works with many, many other indies), their own publishing and do deals not just in the ‘States but also internationally.