Depending on your disposition, New York City’s claustrophobic crush of humanity is either unsettling or liberating, if not both simultaneously — it’s not easy to find your foothold in a place where crying in public is both a rite of passage and a punchline. There are many, many love letters to New York City out there, but Charlie Kafuman’s Jackals & Fireflies is less a declaration of devotion than a wistful, extended Missed Connection. An unnamed narrator, played with gentle gravitas by the poet Eva H.D., crisscrosses the city in an unspecified time frame, noting or forging fragments of connection amidst the buffeting streams of urban ambiance. In keeping with Kaufman’s surrealist sensibilities, Jackals & Fireflies is a meandering tone poem whose only other major character is the city itself.
H.D., who wrote the 20-minute film’s script, most recently collaborated with Kaufman by penning the poem “bonedog” for I’m Thinking of Ending Things. Like fellow flaneur Leopold Bloom, who wanders through Dublin in equally mesmerizing fashion, H.D.’s narration is a loose amalgamation of stream of consciousness and internal monologue, peppered with wry observation and personal reflection. Cinematographer Chayse Irvin (Blonde and BlacKkKlansman) shot the film with a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra as part of a new campaign, but unlike high-budget shot-on-iPhone features, Jackals & Fireflies retains a down-to-earth moodiness that befits its pensive subject. Even in the face of solitude, there’s more than a little serendipity; it’s their fleeting coexistence that Kaufman, in his own understated way, chooses to celebrate.
Published as part of InRO Weekly — Volume 1, Issue 9.