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August 06, 2009

The GoodTimesKid

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Azazel Jacobs - 2005
Benten Films All Region DVD

Taking place in a period of about twenty-four hours, The GoodTimesKid follows three people who temporarily weave in and out of each others lives due to an unexpected coincident. The two men are both named Rodolfo Cano, with one receiving a letter intended for the other. The letter announced that the recipient has officially enlisted in the Army.

The one who unexpectedly received the letter, referred to in the credits as Rodolfo II, lives in a boat. It's an obvious metaphor for a person who appears to be drifting in life, with only the most casual attachment to the world at large. Rodolfo I intends to break away from his girlfriend, Diaz, by joining the Army, and pointedly denying her plans to celebrate his birthday that day. When Rodolfo I and Diaz are first seen, her attempts at reconciliation for an implied rift from the night before are immediately rejected. If The GoodTimesKid could be said to be about anything, it would be about how totally unexpected incidences can undo plans or conversely, impose a defined direction that might be accepted spontaneously.

Rodolfo I's enlistment in the army might be interpreted as an act of eventual self-destruction, of putting himself in harm's way in the Middle East. Rodolfo I's only physical contact is in getting into fist fights, first with a gang of men at a bar, and later on the street with Rodolfo II. At the same time, Rodolfo I also pushes away Diaz. Rodolfo I does not explain himself, nor does anyone else his motivations. It is as if his only sense of self-validation is though physical punishment, perhaps death, as indicated with the words "Shoot Here" on his stomach. At the same time, Rodolfo II, witnessing a frustrated Diaz mashing a birthday cake, and punching a refrigerator gains her attention by furiously pummeling the refrigerator as well. Even if neither Rodolfo II, nor Diaz, understands why he is hitting the refrigerator, the act stirs Diaz temporarily from her anger to perform a kind of old-timey dance to amuse Rodolfo II.

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It really is Diaz who is the heart and soul of The GoodTimesKid because of the animated presence of actress Sara Diaz. My favorite scene in the film simply follows Diaz walking on the sidewalk of Los Angeles at night, the skinny legs in red sneakers, the long, swinging arms, as she strides across while the camera tracks along side her. In his notes that come with the DVD, Glenn Kenny compares Sara Diaz to Shelley Duvall as Olive Oly in Robert Altman's film of Popeye. I would push this further to compare Diaz with the Fleischer Brothers cartoon character in the way her arms and legs stretch across the screen. This is not meant to be an insult. Sara Diaz defies the conventional looks of that would be found in film by someone of lesser imagination, just as she defies the viewer to not look at her. I could take or leave the two Rodolfos but Diaz I would see again in a heartbeat.

While The GoodTimesKid is my introduction to Azazel Jacobs, I have long been familiar with some of the work of his father, filmmaker Ken Jacobs. One of the requirements of New York University's Cinema Studies program was to watch the senior Jacob's Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son at least twice. For those unfamiliar with that film, Jacobs takes an eight minute movie, filmed tableau style, and breaks the various actions into smaller shots, using close-ups and slow motion, stretching out over the course of almost two hours. Ken Jacobs other films could be said to recall the memory of older movies, especially silent comedies. One of the extra features on the DVD is Whirled which takes parts of Ken Jacobs other films shot in the Fifties and early Sixties featuring actor and fellow filmmaker, Jack Smith.

The love for old movies can be seen in the other extra, Azazel Jacob's short film, Let's Get Started. Sara Diaz chases after a runaway bicycle tire that continuously eludes her. It's a short, simple film that might remind some of the pursuit of errant objects in the films of Buster Keaton or Laurel and Hardy. The comic short concludes that sometimes what we need the most can sometimes come to us if we choose to momentarily stand still.

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Posted by peter at August 6, 2009 12:39 AM