Hartley 1994

Wednesday 16 April 2014
Hagglers Corner

We started with a couple of shorts to set a 90s existentialist/whatever vibe, setting the scene for Hartley’s odd and funny thriller starring Isabelle Huppert. Here are the night’s film notes…

Director/writer/music: Hal Hartley
Cinematographer: Michael Spiller
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Martin Donovan, Elina Löwensohn

Hal Hartley started making films in Long Island, New York in the eighties. His first feature The Unbelievable Truth (1989) – starring Adrienne Shelley as a disaffected teenager convinced the world will soon end in a nuclear holocaust – established him as a key figure in American independent film. He went on to complete the ‘Long Island Trilogy’ with Trust (1991) and Simple Men (1992); Amateur signals a change of pace in his work as the action leaves the confines of suburban Long Island and heads to the city.

Hartley’s films are unconventional, absurdist, deadpan and offbeat, with stilted, pause-filled dialogue, and highly stylized acting, choreography and camera movement. He scores them himself. His narratives are about transformation, identity and escape; his characters are people in flux who want to change their lives or believe they must change.

Here’s a proper bit of film critique on Amateur, from Mark L. Berrettini’s 2011 book ‘Contemporary Film Directors – Hal Hartley’:
Amateur’s depiction of Thomas [Donovan] grounds a philosophical notion of split subjectivity within the actual division between his buried past and his amnesiac present. Here, Hartley’s cinematic play with abstract or theoretical concepts suggests that a unified, essential identity is impossible, as does his depiction of Isabelle’s [Huppert] multifaceted subjectivity as virgin-nun-visionary-nymphomaniac-pornographer.”

Hartley is still independently making films and music today. He’s even on Twitter! @PossibleFilms

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