Festival de Cannes 70: Hal Hartley, 1998

A sunny shout-out to 70 winners at the Cannes Film Festival to celebrate the 70th event which is just around the corner – in no particular order.

From where I am sitting Hal Hartley appears to be one of the under-rated film-maker forces in the business. Of course he is not the only one. He appears to be one of the rare few though that continues to make movies his way, and mostly for peanuts, a true indie. His unique dead-pan, but very witty dialogue, and his intentionally amateur-dramatic, but very charming performances, are just two of his consistent ingredients. Henry Fool came nearly ten years after his debut (The Unbelievable Truth), but this is the film, if I had to guess, non-avid Hartley fans (unlike myself) know him for. It spawned two follow-on projects, the more transparent Fay Grim, and the recent return to form Ned Rifle, with the same principle characters. This first oddball and utterly intelligent adventure then takes the disruptive stranger in town element (Hartley seems so fond of), and has the title character dissect the Grim family. Henry, who already has a troubled past catching up with him, leaves in his path an even more perturbed poet son, and impregnates his sister – which is where Ned comes in. The screenplay is snappy, smart, and funny in some of the wrong places. Which is what makes it irresistible.

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