By Ashley Cooper | March 29, 2006

I have certain rules for reviewing films. One of them is that I do not stop a movie I’m reviewing once I start it. Phone rings, dogs pee on the floor, apartment on fire, it doesn’t matter. The filmmaker’s totality of vision is more important and I believe every reviewer owes them that much. However, I had to make an exception for “Nobody Needs To Know”. Somewhere around one quarter of the way into this film and some random guy is talking in the background like an episode of “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, only it’s not funny and doesn’t seem to pertain to the action on the screen. If this was a DVD, I’d of thought it was an out of sync director’s commentary. But as it was a VHS copy playing, that wasn’t an option. So I picked up the VHS cover and did the unthinkable–I read the summary before watching the movie. Or at least I read as much of it as I needed for things to make sense. Still, this was cardinal rule #2 that I had to break. Apparently somehow one of the characters falls into some kind of “…void between city surveillance cameras,” so he can now see anything and everything in all of New York City. Okay, now I get the idea. But the big problem remains that his comments rarely seem on the point of what’s happening. To follow the story I found it often best to try to drown out this “narrator”.

“Nobody Needs To Know” always has a few isolated things happening at once and trying to discern a single plot proves difficult. But basically the main action follows an actress, Iris, who seems to suddenly see through the whole filmmaking business and a director, Jonas, whose audition she walks out on when he asks her to play a death scene. Thereafter, Iris looks down on her aspiring actress friends too wrapped up in their microcosm to see anything else. Then she has a random encounter with another disillusioned actor. Meanwhile, a growingly frustrated Jonas continues the auditions. Perhaps he is beginning to see through it all too.

See through what all, exactly, I’m not sure. Since we don’t really get any sense of what kind of film Jonas is supposed to be making, should we accept the moral to be that all of filmmaking is rife with hypocrisy and bullshit? If so, then isn’t this film a member of that club? Perhaps we’re supposed to conclude that most or maybe only certain kinds of films are guilty and deserving of this taint. Fine then, where do you draw these lines? Unfortunately, this is an issue “Nobody Needs To Know” never really addresses. Of course, I could be wrong. Maybe this wasn’t the film’s intention at all. But, after wading through all its nebulous disconnected and superfluous scenes, you have to want to find some point to it or some reason why anyone would want to make this movie in the first place.

Given that director Azazel Jacobs’s father, Ken Jacobs, was also an avant-garde filmmaker, a certain amount of experimentalism is to be expected. As the VHS jacket explains, “This is a story about transitions without any transition shots, it is no roller coaster ride and you have not seen anything like it before.” Not every movie needs the pacing of an Indiana Jones installment. But some sort of feeling that you’re being taken somewhere and for some reason is certainly preferable to the slow limbo of “Nobody Needs To Know”.

So, basically we have an industry insider avant-garde film that may find an accordingly small audience of people for whom this is everyday life. But, pretty much the rest of us will likely find this offering unwatchable.

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