For a director who works as infrequently as Noah Baumbach, a misfire always adds insult to injury. It’s been a little over a year since he disappointed us with the so-difficult-it-caused-migraines Margot at the Wedding, and yet if Mr. Baumbach were a prolific filmmaker like Woody Allen, we probably wouldn’t have even noticed how bad it really was. (To wit: does anyone even remember Cassandra’s Dream?) While the screenwriter half of Mr. Baumbach has been busy, with both the long gestating Wes Anderson film The Fantastic Mr. Fox and the on-the-nose adaptation of Claire Messud’s The Emperor’s Children for Ron Howard, we figured it would be quite some time before we heard from his directorial alter-ego again. Wrong! We’ve been seeing his work all Fall and hadn’t even known. According to our friends at Videogum, Mr. Baumbach has been directing short films for none other than Lorne Michaels and Saturday Night Live.
This past weekend’s hilariously over-the-top (or utterly humorless, depending on who you talk to) edition hosted by Paul Rudd closed with a pre-taped sketch called "Clearing the Air" which was directed by Mr. Baumbach. Filmed on location at West Village restaurant Bellavitae, the short film felt more like one of those Albert Brooks helmed ventures from the early days of Saturday Night Live, and not the Andy Samberg viral-ready Digital Shorts that have become so prevalent in recent years. "Air" wasn’t ha-ha funny, but it was an exciting departure from the normalcy of the show–such a departure in fact that the audience didn’t seem to know quite what to make of it. Meanwhile, on his blog over at NBC.com, Fred Armisen notes that Mr. Baumbach also worked on a short film that aired during the Josh Brolin-hosted episode in late October. Unfortunately, while NBC is very good at putting Saturday Night Live clips online, neither of these happen to be on their website.
For film geeks like us, this kind of news is much more exciting than the prospect of seeing Tim McGraw host (tune in this week for that gem). Yet thus far, NBC hasn’t promoted it at all. Come on Lorne, get on that! Since the last skit of the night is usually an obtuse and bizarre time-waster, maybe Saturday Night Live should start exclusively farming out that slot to indie filmmakers. How cool would it be to see Darren Aronofsky produce a short for Saturday Night Live? Or, better idea: have Michel Gondry direct a third installment of Laser Cats. Now that’s something we can all get behind.