Jody Lee Lipes’ portrait of performance artist Brock Enright presents a study in contrasts — most glaringly between Lipes’ elegant, sumptuously lit images and the aesthetically unappealing chaos Enright ringmasters within the frame. One-half weird personal diary and one-half disturbing record of the creative process, “Good Times Will Never Be the Same” chronicles Enright and g.f. Kirsten Deirup’s trip from Brooklyn to the California redwoods in search of inspiration. A perfect time capsule of the controversy surrounding what constitutes art in the 21st century, pic has already made waves in art and film circles and seems primed for limited theatrical play.
Enright originally approached Lipes, an up-and-coming cinematographer (Antonio Campos’ “Afterschool”), with a request to shoot the video centerpiece for Enright’s upcoming installation at Gotham’s Perry Rubenstein Gallery. Instead, Lipes proposed a making-of docu on Enright himself creating the video artifact.
From the onset of their cross-country odyssey, Enright and Deirup take turns in front of and behind the camera, with Enright always calling the shots. Deirup films Enright kicking ferns and spitting on chandeliers; Enright, in a perhaps symbolic enactment of their respective roles, directs Deirup to dress up as a mouse in the forest and deliver her lines with squeaky gusto while she slices up Enright’s feces.
If the duo’s professional partnership proceeds swimmingly, personally, the relationship seems headed for disaster. Deirup worries about their mounting debts, thrusting her into the thankless part of creativity-destroying bitch. Furthermore, once they wind up quartered at a rustic forest retreat owned by Deirup’s family, the creatively blocked Enright fears alienating his g.f. from her folks with his artistic shock tactics. Given the aggressive, off-putting nature of his work (he gained fame by staging violent consensual kidnappings) and his tendency to saunter on camera stark naked, this excuse for artist’s block is not as far-fetched as it initially sounds.
Lipes’ gorgeously shot docu ultimately registers as a deconstruction of a deconstruction, its beauty neither indicting nor celebrating Enright’s abrasive aesthetic. Besides, Lipes’ making-of footage is too fragmented to convey what Enright’s final product actually looks like. Even when the installation premieres in New York, Lipes perversely films the audience and not the screen; he never divulges whether the show succeeds or flops, artistically or financially.
Pic suggests that one cannot judge Enright’s output by his behind-the-scenes antics: Great artists and untalented poseurs alike are liable to come off as obnoxious narcissists in pursuit of their muses. Underscoring this unpredictability, Lipes ends his film with the couple united in blissed-out contemplation of their latest collaboration — a newborn baby.