Lost Classics: The Unbelievable Truth (Hal Hartley, 1989)

May 14, 2013


1989’s Sex, Lies and Videotape (Steven Soderbergh) is often treated as the poster boy for discussions of the boom in American independent cinema, a wave that emerged at the end of the eighties and flourished for much of the early to mid-nineties. Soderbergh would eventually work a balance between more mainstream Hollywood efforts and smaller features with greater artistic freedom afforded by monetary success. Richard Linklater and Gus Van Sant, other prominent names of the American indie wave, would also venture down similar paths in their careers. One filmmaker who would not do this was Hal Hartley, a director whose debut feature The Unbelievable Truth also premiered in 1989. Though never gaining the same mainstream attention the others did early on, Hartley still had fairly outspoken support for much of the subsequent decade, only for the followers to rapidly diminish since, his name and filmography fading into relative obscurity in comparison to his so-called peers.

The films of Hal Hartley are of a notably mannered style. Though the majority of his filmography is by no means inaccessible, his writing and directing rhythms aren’t easily transferable to broader fare, and, perhaps explaining his lack of crossover success, he has yet to try doing so. Hartley has not stopped making films, but they are few and far between, and he has had to rely on crowd-funding for the completion of his most recent feature Meanwhile. His faded fortunes are a crying shame, but a re-emergence in profile has begun to take effect through recent critical re-evaluation via the home video releases…

Full feature for The Big Picture here


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