In the early-to-mid '90s, Hal Hartley was talked about like the Coens, Richard Linklater and other young indie directors. 'Amateur' reveals why.
YES!! This was one of my absolute favorite movies around age 20. and Hal Hartley probably one of my two favorite working directors. Can’t wait to read this.
I missed out on Hartley when he was in his prime, but I made a concerted effort to catch up with his filmography a few years back. (Ned Rifle is the one that continues to elude me on account of that whole not streaming anywhere situation.) I like this one well enough, but I was more taken with his immediate follow-up, Flirt, which could strike some as strictly a formal exercise (the same scene played out in three different locations by different sets of actors), but I really dug it.
it's weird. I would put myself in the category you describe, and I was aware of all those other films, but I never even heard of Hartley in the 90s.....might have to check this out
I’m excited to revisit this with your last paragraph in mind. My favorite Hartley films like Surviving Desire are so great because they treat love as an act of ceding understanding—the more committed you are to a love, the more you have to accept constant confusion and uncertainty. On my first viewing of Amateur the genre sendup overwhelmed me.
Hartley graduated from the film school of my alma mater a few years before me, so he couldn't have been a bigger force in that particular era and part of the world. But I confess I couldn't much abide his stuff (or Jarmusch's, for that matter). Clearly, deadpan cool wasn't my steez.
Huh! Hartley is a huge blindspot for me and Hipster Regarding Henry sounds pretty interesting to me. Honestly everything you've said about his movies here does too - gonna have to swerve this way and cure this ignorance I GUESS.
A good chance to share my favorite piece of Hartley miscellany: https://youtu.be/xgA6cpPNXEk
HENRY FOOL was a huge movie for me, that hit right when I was getting really into cinema and able to drive myself an hour to the "big city" (aka Spokane, WA) to see arthouse stuff. I think it's held up pretty well, though w/ diminishing returns w/ the sequels to some extent (why the Dutch angles all over FAY GRIM??????). Eventually caught up w/ FLIRT, SURVIVING DESIRE (and the shorts included on that VHS), and SIMPLE MEN, but still never saw the first two or AMATEUR.
Oh wow. I've only ever seen Henry Fool. I was selling door to door in Indiana, on one of those university work experience visa programmes. After the first couple of months, door to door selling became weirdly less compelling than sitting in Borders, or watching movies in the empty cinema. Henry Fool is the only film I remember, and a Robert Crumb collection the only book. I think with both, I felt that exploring further would only cheapen the experience, show the construction lines too clearly. I missed a lot of things that way.
Thanks for shining a light on Hartley - I was one of those early-90s Hartley-obsessed 20-somethings as well, and had one of those beloved TRUST VHS tapes. I will say that I remember being a bit disappointed by AMATEUR when it came out, largely because it followed his all-time masterpiece SIMPLE MEN (which is still one of my favorite films). I cannot recommend it highly enough - and there happens to be a copy on YouTube (for now): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyTMvU0scbI
Just to note: it's not terribly convenient, but Hartley now owns rights to all his movies save No Such Thing, and you can rent/buy them through his website (via vimeo): https://www.halhartley.com/filmsstreaming
Wish I could remember why I stopped keeping up with Hartley after Trust — I loved that and especially The Unbelievable Truth. Then just ... never got to later movies.
But this is a great reminder to check out <i>Amateur</i>, which will be a first time watch for me.
Caught this last night, spurred by this convo! Liked it quite a bit, though I didn’t love it. I wonder if part of what happened to Hartley was Tarantino coming along and making far more commercially successful genre de- and reconstructions in the same vein. It was interesting to realize this was made around the same time as Pulp Fiction.
Hartley and Martin Donovan should get mentioned more often when discussing great director/actor pairings.
My favorite part may have been Damian Young’s performance, which seems spiritually aligned with Nicolas Cage’s approach. The moment when he stops the cop car to fire one more shot made me bust out laughing.
Also if I had seen this I think I’d have developed a huge crush on Elian Löwensohn, who could not look more iconically ’90s indie babe.
This has always been one of my favorite Hartley films. I was living in Prague when it came out and was able to see it at the Karlovy Vary film festival, where it was such a treat amid the steady deluge of standard Hollywood fare that came to Prague. Like many others, I was an aspiring 20-something filmmaker living in NYC when his first two films came out, so naturally he was a big influence in terms of the low-budget indie model I wanted to follow. I even got to work with one of his actors from Trust, Patricia Sullivan (Martin Donovan's hardass boss), in a short film I helped produce. Loved Surviving Desire, Simple Men, and Henry Fool, and had the pleasure of attending a preview screening of Faye Grim which Hartley presented and spoke about. He really does live in that weird indie no-man's land now, but according to interviews he's managed to remain solvent and still do his thing. I was especially pleased to discover he directed over half a dozen episodes of Red Oaks, for Amazon, back in 2015-17, turning out some of the better episodes in fact. The show, about an aspiring filmmaker in the 1980s, was a natural fit for him while allowing him to show off some more mainstream chops. I wish we lived in a world where he could create his own offbeat HBO series, a la Mike White or the Duplass brothers... But, yeah, Amateur. Great stuff. Martin Donovan rocks. And Parker Posey was fun as one of the squatters.