The inspirations and aspirations that propel “Tomorrow Night,” Louis C.K.’s 1998 film that was made available on his Web site Wednesday, couldn’t be more clear. The opening credits that nod affectionately toward Woody Allen. The ensemble cast includes then-barely-known Steve Carell, Wanda Sykes, J.B. Smoove, Robert Smigel and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-her Amy Poehler. The film, an occasionally funny, mostly self-conscious grab-bag of alternately absurdist and raunchy set pieces, would barely merit mention were it not for the auteurial hand of C.K., who in the intervening 15 years has become a sensation, thanks in no small part to his shrewd navigation of new media.
The time lag between “Tomorrow Night’s” brief run on the festival circuit and C.K.’s decision to release it DIY-style has made it into something of a charming time capsule, a black-and-white homage not only to the films of Allen and Jim Jarmusch, but also to a bygone era of rotary telephones, celluloid film, record players and an archaic system of communication known as the “U.S. mail.” The film stars Chuck Sklar as Charles, the misanthropic proprietor of a photo shop in Pittsburgh (played by downtown Manhattan) whose compulsive neatness belies a bizarre interior life that he fetishistically indulges in every night. “Tomorrow Night” follows Charles through a series of encounters with his mailman (Smoove), a local floozy (played to hard-edged burlesque excess by Heather Morgan) and finally an elderly customer named Florence (Martha Greenhouse), with whom he embarks on an improbably intimate friendship.