Another Saturday, another guest post. This time it’s by a blogless person, Lesley Ann Whelan, whose knowledge of obscure movie directors knows no bounds. Hal Hartley is an American independent movie director who almost made it and then didn’t. I think it was his own choice, but only he knows that for sure. He’s still making movies today, but he’s best know for his work in the mid 90’s, which form most of the list below. I’d love to see these movies again, and must at some stage. LA’s thoughts on Hal are below:
Top 5 Hal Hartley Movies
Back in my teen years I had a monthly cinema date with my mother where we would go to see the latest art house offerings at the Screen Cinema. This is where I was introduced Hal Hartley movies, as I dragged my mother to see Amateur. What must she have thought? I’m pretty sure she has wiped clean her memory of a movie containing an ex nun who writes erotic fiction and an amnesiac porn film maker. But its still number one on my list….
Amateur – Hal Hartley has been described as the “American Harold Pinter” and (to use a glee-ism) the theatricality of his movies are an acquired taste. Although Hal Hartley composes the soundtrack on many of his movies under the title Ned Rifle, the music he chooses would be right up workhorses street as this soundtrack can attest with music by Red House Painters, Pavement, MBV and Yo La Tengo to name but a few. I know this man.
The Unbelievable Truth – Hughes had Ringwald as his muse. Hartley had Adrienne Shelley. Her real life murder more bizarre than any film script. An off beat romance between a long island teenager and an ex-criminal. The film was nominated for the Grand Jury prize at Sundance in 1990 and established Hartley as a name to be watched in the burgeoning independent filmaking movement.
Trust – Remarkably marketed as an art house Heathers, the only comparison being the use of bombs in the climax! Trust won the Waldo Salt screenwriting award at the 1991 Sundance film festival. Trust explores a continuing theme of difficult parent/child relationships as well as being Hartley’s trademark off beat romance.
Henry Fool – This contains my husbands favorite scene of any Hartley movie. Fay enters bar and lifts her 5 years old son off the bar. Sniffing him she asks little Ned if he has been drinking. Her barfly husband replys “His throat hurt from smoking”
Simple Men – For anyone who likes a good bop to some Sonic Youth! Hartley entered the Cannes film festival competition with this film in 1992. It is a drama about two estranged brothers who are searching for their father and begin relationships with two women in a small town.
Hartley work sees his collaboration with a band of actors, much like in Mike Leighs work. Actors who cut their teeth with Hartley include Parker Posey, Martin Donovan, Bill Sage, Dwight Ewell, Robert John Burke and the aforementioned Shelley. He has inspired many independent film makers and is cited by Kevin Smith, along with Jarmusch, Spike Lee and Linklater as one of his major influences. Listen, Clerks is still a good movie!