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August 25, 2009

The GoodTimes Kid

Two weeks ago this morning saw the release of Azazel Jacob's The GoodTimes Kid on DVD, a format designed to endure the tests of both time and tardy notices from the likes of viewers like me.

This is the film Jacobs made before the acclaimed Momma's Man. People talk about it and bandy about comparisons to Tati or Chaplin or Kaurismaki, or the French New Wave, or punk rock, and you go into the movie thinking about those things and nodding your head as you begin to calculate the sum of all these influences, and then a shot like this one comes along and knocks you right out of that referential orbit.

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Or maybe it's another shot. There are lots of them. The film was photographed on the fly, mostly by whichever lead actor wasn't on camera, and it shows (that's not a bad thing at all in this case). It was also shot on 35mm, which really shows.

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Not just because the images are big and beautiful, but because they're full of wear and tear and little stray fragments of light sent spinning by imperfections in the lens. The original negative has been restored and scanned by Benten Films, the boutique imprimatur (recently profiled in the Wall Street Journal) under which the film has been released, but they wisely didn't clean it up too much. Its rag tag beauty...

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...has so much character that it practically is a character. Just as beautiful: the original score by Mandy Hoffman, and the way lead actor Gerardo Naranjo (whose second feature I'm Gonna Explode just opened) can't quite get his words out of his mouth. In the film's commentary track, he notes that he can speak English and he can act, but can't do both at the same time. This, it turns out, is a recipe for endless comic beguilement!

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The Good Times Kid is about two men named Rodolfo Cano (one played by Naranjo and the other by Jacobs) who accidentally, serendipitously take turns letting down the same young woman. Both Rodolfo's are basically the same person, although that insight is my own and not the film's. The film ends with a single static shot in which two of the characters sit and listen to a Gang Of Four song all the way through. I included a similar sequence in a film of my own once; without tooting my own horn too loudly, let me say that it's a brilliant and thankfully underused cinematic technique.

By the way, I stole the following screen grab from We Love You So, because it's just too good not to.

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The DVD includes deleted scenes, a trailer that reveals nothing about the film other than that it was a lovingly ramshackle production, a short film by Azazel's father, the legendary underground filmmaker Ken Jacobs, and another short film by Azazel himself, which you should actually watch right now because it'll give you an idea of what you're in for, sort of:

This handsome new DVD can be had right here, or you can add it to your Netflix queue. One or the other or both, but sooner rather than later.

Posted by David Lowery at August 25, 2009 2:16 AM