waking into a dream journal 01.29.08

this morning's brink-of-disaster teetering
no such thing
director: hal hartley // 2001

cinema 4 rating: 4

movies are not generally the realm of doodlers -- this film feels like a less-than-half thought out sketch scratched while its creator were on the film having a conversation about something absolutely removed from whatever was in its creator's head, and then said creator decided later to expand that sketch into a entire canvas -- hal hartley, the creator here, specializes in low-budget indie gems (there is no other word for them), but you have to become immersed in his scruffy style to truly appreciate each of their dryly humorous, rough-hewn facets -- he is responsible for at least a half-dozen films of this type (in memory of the late adrienne shelley, please check out h.h.'s trust and the unbelievable truth... if you love them, then you will be hooked on hartley for life; if not, you are either a hard nut to crack or an impatient boob) -- i want to give hartley a higher rating for no such thing due to the sheer chutzpah within his brave little soul, but the result here shows all the signs of someone dabbling in genre fare for which they have little overall regard -- it's fine to wear your high hat into a lowbrow party, but please take it off at the door out of respect for your hosts -- hartley might be taking mankind's standard myths and washing them in a patina of ambitious wanderlust, mixing this with a second-rate satire on mass media... or he might just be damned pretentious for fuck's sake here -- whatever his motives, his cause is lost in a rush of sloppy filmmaking, lazy characterizations, haphzard pacing and whatever else can go wrong in a film but still have it come out strangely watchable, if not bearable -- all it needs is about two buckets of blood, six gratuitous breasts and a masturbation scene, and it would seem like latter-day ken russell -- while i am used to hartley's scores (he also composes much of his own music), for some reason, i found the use of music in this film almost ran counter to my moods while watching it -- if purposeful, it merely made things more annoying -- its strength lies in its casting, but they are misused to sad effect for the most part -- helen mirren seems to be having as much fun as she is allowed to have, given the brevity of her part, but julie christie is entirely wasted in a nothing role -- robert john burke is a much underrated actor, and he does look swell as the monster, but he is actually completely wrong for the part -- his opening speech (and this actually may be the fault of the script) comes out as non-committal, and immediately gave me the sense (upheld by the film to follow) that this would be a journey of constant disappointments -- but i would not wish to turn anyone away from watching it -- watch for the cosmic sweetness of miss sarah polley, adorable beyond measure, and the only one who seems to understand what is going on here, even if she actually may not know -- watch for hartley's dissertation on mankind's need to both have monsters in our lives, and our simultaneous impulse to purge them from existence (it's possibly a metaphor for man's unease with evolution and whatnot, but by the point it comes up, i didn't care anymore) -- but don't watch for resolution, for there is none here -- hartley is big on ambiguity anyway; if you've gotten this far in his career, you are used to this already -- if i had seen this film at the age of 22, i would have declared it an instant classic, and made all of my friends watch it against their wills -- they would have hated me (again...) -- it's the sort of film that almost feels like it could all seem great with just one major editing session, so close to truly cool does it feel -- all told, a fascinating failure...

Comments

I had actually been looking forward to this... I'll still be checking it out, but I won't be so hopeful. Maybe that will help my opinion.

Would you recommend the Hartley catalogue? I've been meaning to get into his films, based on what I've heard from people I trust.
Rik Tod said…
To you, Mr. The Working Dead, as I know you personally and well, I highly recommend the first few films in his catalogue: The Unbelievable Truth, Trust, Simple Men, Amateur and Henry Fool are all extremely worthwhile. It gets a little scattershot after that. But I believe that you will enjoy his films immensely, or at least find them interesting.

To other people that I do know personally (and you know to whom I refer if you are one of them): you are probably not going to get very much out of Hartley except a migraine.

To people I don't know personally at all: I really don't give two shits what you watch, or what your reaction is to anything that you do watch.

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