Close Up

4 - 30 April 2018: Close-Up on Hal Hartley


"[Hal Hartley’s] films are all immediately identifiable by the deliberate cadence to his actors’ delivery and the strange normalcy that cloaks even the most eccentric turns of his plot lines. Yet these films are marked equally by a sensuous awareness of color and formal movement, as well by their hip rock scores – often composed and performed by the ubiquitous Ned Rifle (a Hartley alter ego). A fundamental humanity – reminiscent of the sensibility of the French New Wave – pervades Hartley’s narratives, even amidst outbursts of violence and quiet despair.” – Harvard Film Archive

This programme presents six films by the American film director, writer and pioneer of the independent film movement, conveying themes of love, class and ambition with an impassivity that represents reality as stark and absurd.

The Unbelievable Truth
Hal Hartley
1989 | 90 min | Colour | Digital

Hartley's first feature – shot in less than 12 days in his backyard for a mere $200,000 – examines the undercurrents below the surface of normal middle class existence. An ex-con arrives back in his hometown and has an impact on dysfunctional, bright teenager Audrey who finds herself inexplicably drawn to this interesting and possibly dangerous man. Is he a priest, a mechanic or, as most townsfolk would have it, a mass-murderer? The film looks at the relation between knowledge and truth and the relation of rumour and bias to reality. read more

Hal Hartley
1991 | 90 min | Colour | Digital

Hartley's second film furthers the dry dialogue and spare settings of his debut with the tale of an unlikely romance between Maria, a well-meaning yet thoughtless pregnant teenager, and Matthew, a frustrated young man who assembles and repairs electronics. In the face of antagonism and malicious gossip, they attempt to foster a trusting relationship, which is played out as a deadpan farce. read more

Simple Men
Hal Hartley
1992 | 102 min | Colour | Digital

Fresh, daring, frequently hilarious and packed with filmic references, Simple Men is a fascinating dissection of the American Dream and a vivid insight into what it means to be a man. Double-crossed by his girlfriend in a heist gone wrong, Bill vows to seduce and abandon the next woman he encounters. Meanwhile, his brother Dennis is determined to track down their long-lost father, a former sports star alleged to have turned terrorist. Teaming up, the pair leave New York and wind up in a small town where they are forced to face their father's legacy and their relationships with women. read more

Hal Hartley
1994 | 105 min | Colour | Digital

Shot through with resonant tragedy Hal Hartley's Amateur is a twisted metaphysical thriller that has been hailed as one of his greatest works. An ex-nun (Isabelle Huppert), trying to turn her hand to writing pornography, meets Thomas (Martin Donovan), a recovering amnesiac in search of his estranged wife. The two set out in search of Thomas' past but soon discover a trail of secrets leading to the dark, violent heart of his previous life and the pain that forced him to forget. read more

Hal Hartley
1995 | 85 min | Colour | Digital

Stylistically experimental, Hartley’s fourth picture tells the same story three times, varying the characters and location considerably: a congenital flirt must decide whether or not to commit to a current lover, who otherwise will marry someone else. The scenes are in New York, Berlin and finally Tokyo. The latter section has an abstract cinematic approach, including sequences in traditional Japanese pantomime and Hartley himself playing a film director opposite his real-life wife Miho Nikaido. read more

Henry Fool
Hal Hartley
1998 | 138 min | Colour | Digital

Hartley’s epic is looser and more expansive than his previous films. Henry Fool is an ex-convict sex offender; a chain smoking, beer guzzling, pseudo-intellectual egomaniac. He opens up a magical world of literature to Simon, a garbage man who turns his hand to writing the great American poem. As Simon’s controversial career takes off, Henry’s past catches up with him. read more