Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Variety Review

The Goodtimeskid

Minimalist to the max, Azazel Jacobs' second feature, "The GoodTimesKid" emerges as an absurdist and nearly wordless urban dance between two men and a woman over 24 hours in Los Angeles. Building his dry comedy out of a basic confusion of names, an Army recruitment slip and one man's curiosity, Jacobs creates a droll, meandering and defiantly uncommercial film that will have distribs shaking their heads, but is sure to pick up an underground following and the interest of forward-looking fests hungry for fresh American creations.

Pic's early moments, following Rodolfo (Jacobs) as he rises from bed and ignores g.f. Diaz (Sara Diaz), then leaves their ramshackle Echo Park house, suggest countless other Yank indie films about lonely and disconnected young people in domestic situations. But when another fellow -- also named Rodolfo (co-writer Gerardo Naranjo) -- also wakes up in his houseboat in Marina Del Rey, matters begin to revolve in odd and unpredictable ways.

Both men report to an Army recruiting office -- though it could be that Naranjo's Rodolfo (call him Rodolfo II) was wrongly notified. In any case, Jacobs' shaggy, bored and volatile Rodolfo I signs up, leaving Rodolfo II in confusion. He follows Rodolfo I from the recruiting office, and eventually, back home, where Rodolfo II meets Diaz.

Rodolfo II, having lost track of Rodolfo I, now has a new object of curiosity in Diaz.
The threesome follow and intersect paths with each other through the night and early dawn, and the film works a certain fascination on the viewer, as Jacobs is able to juggle his expression of love for the films of Chaplin, Rivette and Aki Kaurismaki along with a light-hearted application of sustained silences and barely articulated behavior. And just as Rodolfo II and Diaz appear on the verge of a new adventure, an unexpected turn leaves "The GoodTimesKid" on an oddly right final note.

Jacobs, son of pioneer film avant-gardist Ken Jacobs, shares his father's taste for droll silent sequences where men play games, and even wrestle, with one another, but the son's interest in narrative (albeit stripped-down) and beautifully wrought 35mm color compositions also sets him apart. Naranjo (helmer of "Malachance"), Diaz and Jacobs play three shades of doe-eyed sadness, with Jacobs liable to burst into sudden violence and the limber Diaz sometimes resembling a Latina Olive Oyl.

Made with a tiny crew on a micro budget, pic looks terrific save for a nighttime beach scene between Rodolfo II and Diaz that's far too dark. Mandy Hoffman's eclectic score adds considerable texture, though what little dialogue there is is only barely audible.

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