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.  

11/24/19 I rewatched Wong Kar-wai's Days of Being Wild.  It's not my favorite of his films, emotionally it's pretty distant.  But it's an interesting watch to see where Wong was early on in his career, thematically and stylistically.  One of the things that I became aware of when rewatching it that I really like in Wong's films is there seems to be a dialogue between the films in his body of work.  For instance, the cop here reminds one of Chungking and the "aunt's" high-necked outfits recall Maggie Cheung's stunning dresses in In the Mood for Love.  

12/13/21 I watched Charles Burnett's To Sleep with Anger.  It only makes sense that because African-Americans have their own history and culture their story should be told using a style that is different and unique.  Burnett might be the first African-American filmmaker to bring that style to cinema.  I do not claim to have seen work by all of the African-American directors, but I can say that neither Melvin Van Peebles, Gordon Parks Jr., Spike Lee, John Singleton, Carl Franklin, Antoine Fuqua, Barry Jenkins nor any of the other films directed by African-American filmmakers that I have seen to date bear a style as tailored and seemingly conceived to fit African-American stories as the work of Burnett.  

A broad statement but it can be seen in the way the sets look and the way that the characters move, sweat and speak.  Burnett's style is naturalistic but mannered and accented in ways that make it feel even more capable of capturing the plight of the black experience in America.     

1/8/22 I watched Jean-Luc Godard's Nouvelle vague.  A highly regarded work by JLG.  I have to admit while watching that I felt very little, understood very little and will have to read to see what others found that I did not.

1/19/22 I watched Claire Denis and Serge Daney's Jacques Rivette, le veilleur.  This dream of a documentary consists mostly of Denis filming the great film critic Daney talking with the great filmmaker Rivette.  It is by far the most thorough portrait of Rivette I have experienced to date and ranks as one of the most enlightening documentaries I have ever seen on a filmmaker.  


  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!

  11. I love hartley so much, he is my favorite directer. Hard to say which of his films I like the best but Trust and Henry Fool are the films I film the most emotion for, He tells us about life in his own way. Trust is a great choice for the year of 1990.

  12. Believe it or not, I have never seen Henry Fool. I need to do something about that soon!

  13. It is really great, so much depth and poignant moments in it,very clever. Also the central performance by Thomas Jay Ryan is up there with some of the best of the 90's.

  14. I'm excited! I have it as one of my next up and will report back.

  15. Cool, i be intrigued to see your thoughts on the film.

  16. I watched Henry Fool yesterday. All of Hartley's cinema I have seen so far is obviously very stylized and very mannered. And, he creates these heightened worlds that exist in some middle ground between reality and fantasy. In some of his work, the artifice only enhances my experience whereas in some of his other films, I find myself a little too aware of his methods. I liked Henry Fool but I did not quite enter the world like I did in Trust. I don't know if it's because it has been so long since I have seen one of Hartley's films, or if it is that the two works are quite different from one another.

  17. I appreciate your honest feedback on this film, What I love about Henry Fool is its clever satire on "what is art"and politics alongside family dynamics and Friendship . I always find the work of Hartley relatable despite the fantasy elements. This is probably Hartley's at his most extreme, some of the things are shocking in the film. This is more darker then Trust or any of his other efforts and this might put some people off as it is finding humor in unlikely places.

  18. Absolutely I appreciate you putting it on my radar. It is interesting that you note the extreme nature of the film. As I said, it has been a while since I have seen a Hartley film and I was surprised by a couple of those moments as nothing I had seen from him previously hit at quite those extremes. I was glad to be back in his world. He is definitely one of the more unique American filmmakers and probably the only we have ever had deeply influenced by post Nouvelle Vague Godard.