A refreshing breath of fresh air, innovative & ultimately deeply touching,
YOUR GOOD FRIEND
" A rabbi. A pornographer. A shared dream. "
Because the film has zero publicity budget, & deserves an audience, here's my report.
Full disclosure: I'm too close to this one -- inside & out. In real life (so-called), I happen to play someone who's a bit like Artie, in the film, but with another name. In both realms, I play catalyst for the film's two protagonists coming together.* One is my rabbi friend Lawrence Kushner , author of numerous vital titles; of his numerous classics, he was writing "Kaballah: A Love Story", while the film came into being. ( He's recently taken up a brush and done 160 paintings, and counting. )
The other is my good friend Matthew Jacobs ( check his filmography out here on IMDb ). (Thank you, MBJ, for the film -- and for bringing Artie to the party!) A bit more shout-out about him, if it won't make his head swell -----: His latest feature film, "Bar America," just won an audience favorite award at Napa Film Festival, and furthers the unique semi-improvisatory strategies at the heart of the making of "Your Good Friend." For those who've seen his work acting with Danny Huston -- "Boxing Day," recently celebrated in England, this week, directed by Bernard Rose, based on Tolstoy's "Master & Man" -- also highly improvised, and highly recommended -- it's worth noting that film also followed after "Your Good Friend." So YGF is a real turning point, and a very rewarding one.
So, having made my full disclosure I can tell you too the film has an amazing unique visceral power, in a marvelous way. Some film lovers might be reminded of the work of Mike Leigh, (Ken Loach might be a more apt British influence). Robert Altman's improvisatory work also comes to mind as an influence. Comparison's are odious but I sense a commitment to honesty, muscular edginess, and authentic innovation at play here, reminiscent to me of early Rossellini; plus a bit of Elia Kazan, and John Cassavetes. Not just a new way of putting a film together but a real quest for truth and sincerity, after all the now out-dated stuffed owls of a century of cinema, so as to be relevant for our own times. In 'neorealist' tradition, Matthew is the only "actor" on the set. So Sharon, the barista, for instance is exactly that beautiful. San Francisco's inimitable sites, inside and out, in also good neorealist fashion, communicate in and of themselves.
The "mockumentary" aspect ( vector ? vein ? ) might seem familiar to some (via Goddard, for instance), but I don't find it facile; rather, it feels like counterpoint to the film's realism -- and necessary to the poignancy of its reflexivity. All films, by definition, are symbols for their own making; not all do so consciously, nor let us in on that creative vector. (Since the early Italian neorealists apprenticed in documentaries, I look forward to seeing what happens when Matthew Jacobs gets his hands on an actual documentary to film; rumor has it, that might be in the cards. Stay tuned.)
Matthew's acting performance makes me wonder when's the last time we've seen a British screen actor so emotionally vulnerable, not to mention as genuinely expressive. His rendition of Jules reminds me of Orson Welles' commanding presence, in its sheer bravado and range (and he does have a certain bear-like frame). One scene in particular, where he reaches his inner Vesuvius reminds me of the intensity of the room-smashing scene in "Citizen Kane," or some of the memorable eruptions of Al Pacino or Jack Nicholson. And, like Robert DeNiro, he can be soft, as well as hard -- stylized, yet intimate -- with an infectious streak of mirth & wit, to boot.
The deeply worked-through story underpinning it all has very rich meaning, also a breath of fresh air. The film does what no Hollywood formula has time for anymore: namely, care for its characters. The given set of circumstances Jules and Zander each bring to their chance encounter, and how that chemistry makes for touching dramatic transformations of each of them, is worth the price of admission, in and of itself. Not a Buddy Film, it's a hard-earned well-wrought classic tale of true friendship.
Giving this film a numerical quantitative rating is like trying to chew your teeth: impossible. I've given nothing away, here, except perhaps my enthusiasm for the film. Please, see for yourselves. Enjoy!!
* (My recall of the inception of Your Good Friend I was thinking of the act of creation while I'd reached, for some paper; empty. Well, at least Chameleon Cafe is mom-and-pop so instead of a blow-dryer they still furnish paper towels. I could never figure out how anyone's expected to dry their wet *face* on one of those gadgets. Anyways, I held the thought, Koestler, The Act of Creation, as I wiped. Opening the door & walking back to my table I heard five or six simultaneous slices of different conversations. BP oil spill. Someone quoting Pound quoting Louis Agassiz about slides for comparison. ((Unrepeatable.)) Teff-grain bread. I just love this town, Larry Kushner chimes in, looking up from his manuscript of Kaballah: A Love Story imagine, what if, if I'd just walked by, right now, heard what you just said and we filmed it ! )
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