Thursday, May 26, 2011

HENRY FOOL (Hal Hartley, 1998)

****½
USA
The people who didn't tap into the subtle wisdom and loveliness of Hal Hartley's early films mistook this one for a testament to his maturation. It's no such thing. Harley was a mature filmmaker from the outset and all that separates this very wise and lovely dramedy from his earlier ones is that this time out he's stingier with the comedy, while the melancholy that was quiet and restrained in Trust and Simple Men is here amplified and brought to the forefront. It's an approach that - working, as it is, off a plot about a pretentious writer and an antisocial garbageman-poet - reeks of undergrad hollowness to begin with, but becomes more digestible and resonant as the characters grow meatier and more life-like.

It's longer than Hartley's previous films and less contained - almost sprawling tone-wise if you compare it to The Unbelievable Truth and Simple Men. In some sense it's also more ambitious, and probably more flawed. But ultimately it's just as charming and big-hearted.

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