Sunday, April 11, 2010

1990: Trust (Hal Hartley)

1990: Trust (Hal Hartley)
I'll never forget reading the liner notes for Big Star's Third/Sister Lovers album and seeing their music described as "angular".  It seemed such a strange word at the time.  Yet, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed apt for their music and apt for a few other things I'd experienced, as well.  In fact, it's the best word I can think of to describe Hal Hartley's work.  

Trust and some of the other Hartley movies from this period possess some of the most unique rhythms and cadences of any work in the history of film.  It's almost as if they invented a whole new time signature.  They don't cut when it seems normal to cut, the camera doesn't move when it seems like it should, and everything seems to be just a little bit off.  But, at the same time, it all coheres into something that is clearly conceived and purposeful.

This is my favorite of all of Hartley's work.  It's the one where Hartley seems to hear that skewed metronome the clearest and lets it guide him the most.  Hartley is definitely not for everyone.  But if you like the rhythms of Jarmusch or Kitano, I would think you'd love this one, too. For me, it's one of the most beautiful and accomplished films of this entire period.  

Other contenders for 1990:  I still have some things to see.  These include: Jean-Luc Godard's Nouvelle vague, Charles Burnett's To Sleep with Anger, Hal Hartley's The Unbelievable Truth, Clint Eastwood's White Hunter, Black Heart, Peter Bogdanovich's Texasville, Mike Leigh's Life Is Sweet, James Ivory's Mr. & Mrs. Bridge, and Idrissa Ouedraogo's Tilai.  I really like Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, Abbas Kiarostami's Close-Up, The Coen Brothers' Miller's Crossing, Wong Kar-Wai's Days of Being Wild, and Jane Campion's An Angel at My Table.  I love Whit Stillman's Metropolitan, John Woo's Bullet in the Head, and David Lynch's "Twin Peaks" Pilot.  And my closest runner-up is Abel Ferrara's King of New York.

4/5/11 I watched Sidney Lumet's Q & A.  It's an impressive work from Lumet.  A bit talky for my taste, and Lumet proves once again that he's not a very cinematic filmmaker.  But Nolte is excellent, and the film really starts buzzing along as the third act unfolds.  

9/4/11 I watched Clint Eastwood's White Hunter, Black Heart.  Interesting in that it doesn't go where you would expect in its final thirty minutes.  Also seems to add to Eastwood's ongoing late ruminations on violence.  But Eastwood's performance as Huston seems mannered to the point of distraction.  

9/13/11 I watched James Ivory's Mr. & Mrs. Bridge.  Two wonderful performances remind us of the wonderful nuance, depth, and humanity that can happen when a filmmaker decides to make a work for real, aging adults (think Make Way For Tomorrow).  Woodward is particularly memorable here, and of the Ivory films I've seen so far, this one seems the most sophisticated and ambiguous, in the best of ways.  


  1. Hmm... tough call for me. Such a tough decisions...


    Considering the name of my blog, this one should be fairly obvious - it's Martin Scorsese's GOODFELLAS, and it's not even close. It might very well be my #1 of all time, so this one requires absolutely no though. There are other films from this year that I love - MILLER'S CROSSING, JACOB'S LADDER - but it's no contest. Like I said about The Godfather, one of the great things about Goodfellas is how it is able to be adored by the casual moviegoer and also analyzed and cherished by hardcore movie nuts. That is such a huge compliment, I think.

  2. Dave, yeah I knew this one was a slam dunk for you! And it's certainly a great pick. And I completely agree that it's one that cinephiles and casual moviegoers both love and adore.

    Thanks, Dave! Always awesome having you here.

  3. Jeffrey, I am no fan of Hartley, but I'm often of the opinion I am missing the boat on him. Again this past Friday night while viewing a German film called EVERYONE ELSE at the IFC, I am reminded how beloved he is on the independent circuit. Again an audacious choice here.

    My Own #1 Film of 1990:

    Tilai (Oudreago; Burkina Faso)


    Mr. & Mrs. Bridge (Ivory; USA)
    Life is Sweet (Leigh; UK)
    Good Fellas (Scorsese; USA)
    Close-Up (Kiarostami; Iran)
    Metropolitan (Stillman; USA)
    Delicatessen (Jeunet; France)
    Cyrano de Bergerac (Rappaneau; France)
    Vincent and Theo (Altman; USA)
    The Grifters (Frears; USA)
    An Angel at My Table (Campion; NZ)

  4. Sam, I completely understand anyone not being into Hartley. He's an odd bird, and his filmmaking is definitely a bit off. But, for some reason, it's just always really connected with me.

    I look forward to seeing your top three picks. Thanks, Sam! Always great having you here.

  5. Jeffrey I have not seen any of Hartley's works though I have heard the name over the years. Goodfella’s is my choice for this year. An excellent look at the non-glamorous day to day life of a hood is brilliantly played out here. The camera work, the music and the acting are all superb.

    # 1 Goodfella’s

    Best of the rest

    The Grifters
    Edward Scissorhands
    Cry Baby
    La Femme Nikita
    Miller’s Crossing
    The Godfather – Part 3
    Wild at Hearts

  6. John, I'll be curious to hear what you think of Hartley. He's definitely not everyone's cup of tea.

    As for the rest of your list, I like THE GRIFTERS, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, LA FEMME NIKITA, MISERY, and WILD AT HEART although all a little less than the ones I mention. I still need to see CRY BABY and believe it or not, THE GODFATHER PART III.

    Thanks, John. Always wonderful having you here!

  7. Wow nothing wrong with starting a review by name checking Big Star!! RIP Alex Chilton. Oh yeah I've never seen this film. Goodfellas, Jacobs Ladder and The Grifters are my top 3 for this year......M.Roca

  8. Thanks, M Roca! Yes, I was very sad to hear of Chilton's recent passing.

    Great to have you here. Thanks so much!

  9. Intriguing choice! I really dig Hartley, esp. his early stuff with SIMPLE MEN being my fave. As much as I like TRUST, I would say either GOODFELLAS or MILLER'S CROSSING was the best of this year.

  10. JD, good to hear some love for Hartley! Yeah, I really dig his early stuff, too.

    Always good to have you here. Thanks, JD!