Azazel Jacobs is an independent director through and through. For the last twenty plus years he has been shooting his small, contemplative films that have remained a secret of hardcore cinephiles. At the moment, he is gearing up towards what seems to be his highest profile film yet, French Exit. The film starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Lucas Hedges and Tracy Letts is gaining some pretty positive notices on the festival circuit at the moment ahead of its theatrical debut this February courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics, right in the thick of Oscar season. This film is sure to be a hot topic of conversation among the arthouse scene, but there is another reason to be discussing Jacobs at the moment. Kino Lorber has just released his second feature The GoodTimesKid from 2005 on Blu-Ray for the first time from a new 2K restoration. The film is an extremely minimalist, low-budget labor of love that relies on audiences immersing themselves into the lives of these characters to get to the heart of this offbeat dramedy.
The crux of the film is based on a case of mistaken identity. Rodolfo Cano (Azazel Jacobs) is a listless bohemian that feels he has run out of appealing options. Rodolfo has decided to enlist in the Army following a fight with girlfriend Diaz (Sara Diaz), but the Army’s notification found its way to another guy also named Rodolfo Cano (Gerardo Naranjo). This Rodolfo II is not much better off than the first one, as he seems adrift in his life, which is not even intended to be a clever allusion to his house boat. Rodolfo II decides to go down to the recruitment office to get his situation straightened out where he hears someone else respond to his name. Rodolfo I no longer seems into the idea of serving in the army, but it is not so easy to back out on such things. Rodolfo II follows the other out of the office in hopes of clearing things up, but he just ends up wandering after him. He continues to follow him all the way home where Diaz, unaware of the whole recruitment situation, is planning a birthday gathering for Rodolfo I. Ever prone to fights, Rodolfo I storms out to enjoy his final night of freedom while Rodolfo II just remains at the house.
In terms of pure plot, that is about the extent that the film is interested in delivering to you. Rodolfo II is unexpectedly welcomed in by Diaz, still frustrated by her insufferable boyfriend. It is the relationship and interaction between Diaz and Rodolfo II where the film mines its emotional beats. Rodolfo II is not interested in being anywhere else but where Diaz is. She is a charming, punky dream girl that is unique without being overblown insufferable. Even when she indulges in some quirky dancing to cheer up Rodolfo II, who she affectionately calls “Depresso,” she falls on the right side of endearing as she provides one of the highlights of the film. The pair get to know each other more throughout the night, but not through words. Rodolfo II is not the strongest English speaker, but he is the type of person that would not say much even if he was. The two grow closer through experiences and quiet moments. The film is happy to not give you easy answers to any questions you may have. You may have an idea of what is going on inside these characters, but you could just as easily be projecting what you want to be happening.
At the end of the day, the film is dealing with themes of embracing the opportunities that life puts in front of you. We so easily get stuck in these monotonous situations of being that it can start to feel impossible to break free. These two were never meant to meet each other, but they embraced the unique situation to experience something meaningful. Once you reach the end, you will still be left with many questions about where these characters are going to end up. Do not go looking to the film for answers, as it has no interest in guiding you to any sort of conclusion. Any interpretation, even this one, is largely subjective and could easily be dismissed. What else could you expect from a film so sparse? The 77-minute runtime is comprised of maybe ten percent dialogue with the remainder being purely visual, especially long, locked-in shots that linger for such a time that you start to feel deeply uncomfortable. The look on these characters’ faces are what you have to guide you towards some kind of understanding. As mentioned, Jacobs is an arthouse auteur, so this could be a really frustrating watch for those not in the market for a very quiet, still narrative. Those who are more comfortable just letting a world wash over you without much direction should find The GoodTimesKid an engaging little title.
The GoodTimesKid comes to Blu-Ray with a new digital AVC encoded 1080p transfer derived from a 2K restoration of the 35mm original camera negative. When evaluating this transfer, you have to take into account that this film was super low budget and is appropriately gritty throughout. The presentation is not quite pristine, but the new restoration looks quite excellent throughout most of the runtime. There are occasional instances of print scratches, but overall clarity and detail is admirable. The picture tends to run a bit soft in long shots, but colors are well saturated in a visually splendid way. Skin tones are natural and consistent with subtle facial features easily noticeable in closeup. Black levels hold up well with very little in the way of crush. There does not appear to be any digital noise, compression artifacts or other nuisances of the sort. This film is as low budget as it gets, so the fact that any of this even looks passable, let alone great, is a miracle. This new presentation is very impressive considering the quality of the source material.
Kino Lorber brings us this new Blu-Ray with a lossless DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio mix that beautifully reproduces the film sonically. This is a film that is noticeable for its silence, and the lack of noticeable humming or hissing is much appreciated. The dialogue holds up quite nicely, coming through as clear as possible considering the low-rent nature of the production. The environmental effects are delineated nicely even if said effects are not exactly showy. This is a track that represents the film in a very satisfying way. This was never intended to be a demo-worthy track, but this new audio presentation makes the film sound as good as you could possibly hope for it to be. Optional English (SDH) subtitles are provided on this disc.
- Audio Commentary: Director Azazel Jacobs recorded a brand-new commentary this year that is quite informative and heavy on anecdotes from the production of the film. Jacobs still leaves any interpretations up to the viewers. I really enjoyed hearing all of the creative ways they had to work to shoot the film on a shoestring budget.
- Production Stills Gallery: An eight-minute selection of behind-the-scenes photographs taken during the production.
- Extended Takes: Fourteen minutes of longer takes from the film that really showcases Jacobs’ deliberate style.
- The GoodTimesKid Trailer: A three-minute trailer that breaks the fourth wall by showing the production being filmed instead of showing footage from the movie itself. I’ve never seen a trailer quite like this, but it does a good job of building anticipation.
- Momma’s Man Trailer: A two-minute trailer for another Azazel Jacobs film, also out from Kino Lorber.
The GoodTimesKid is not an extremely accessible film, but those more engaged cinephiles who are willing to go along for the ride are likely to find something moving to experience. Azazel Jacobs is a filmmaker that has come a long way in the last fifteen years, and it is worth checking this out to see where he cut his teeth. Kino Lorber has provided a pretty great new Blu-Ray presentation with some engaging special features and a pleasing A/V presentation. If you are already a fan of the film, this disc is worth it to see this film in the best quality possible. Recommended
The GoodTimesKid is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray and DVD.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Kino Lorber has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.