You all might as well know that I have a pretty serious thing for Hal Hartley films. I don’t know whether it’s the highly choreographed conversations, the puzzling character motivations, the liberating musical scores, the frequently re-appearing actors, the grainy cinematography, or the way everything seems to work out, but not really, and how each story seems like it still has so many places to go. I’m sure it’s some combination of everything. His films affect me like no one else’s, and I can’t compare them to anything. Continuing my journey through his collection of movies and shorts, the other day I settled on The Girl From Monday, his most recent before Fay Grim and his only foray into science fiction. It’s also his least well-liked, if IMDB ratings are any indication.
Shot in loose, blurry, hand-held format, The Girl From Monday has an anxious, uncertain mood that’s perpetuated by the ambiguity and confusion of the plot. Set in a not-too-distant future where people are considered stocks and everyone has a barcode tattooed on their arms (showcasing their status as consumers), the story is narrated by Jack (Bill Sage), the inventor of this human-based market. People sleep with each other to increase their personal value, making sex for pleasure odd and “barbaric”. All pretty Brave-New-World-ish. Jack is feeling uncomfortable with the world he’s helped create and ends up secretly leading “Counter-Revolutionaries”, mostly teens who are anti-consumerism and pro-sex-for-fun. He ends up dragging coworker and crush Cecile (Sabrina Loyd) into their illegal activity. Simultaneously, a strange and beautiful woman (Tatiana Abracos, in her only film role to date) appears and ends up staying with Jack. She helps him unlock some buried secrets of his past and also enacts a subplot about alien life.
Overall it’s entertaining, funny, and has a good cast. The experimental cinematography was a little off-putting but interesting. The story was kind of shoddy, but the concepts were good. I can see why this is one of his lesser films, but at the same time it still satisfied my need for Hartleyesque storytelling.
Finding myself with some time on my hands after The Girl From Monday, I decided to follow it up with another Hartley movie, one of my favourites: The Unbelievable Truth. His first film, it follows serious, ex-con-turned-automechanic Josh Hutton (Robert John Burke) as he tries to start a new life in his old town, surrounded by people who think he’s a mass murderer. Meanwhile, Audry Hugo (Adrienne Shelly) is a highly intelligent, gorgeous high school senior with constant fears of world wide nuclear destruction. She starts to fall for Josh but is thrown off by his alleged past and by her father’s threats against the relationship. Eventually she ends up working successfully as a model to make money for college as Josh grapples with his inexperience with women, among other things. Various characters interact and intersect, truths are revealed, deals are made, conversations are repeated, and everything is pretty swell.
This movie is awesome. Unfortunately it is a little bittersweet as each viewing of it re-awakens my sadness over Adrienne Shelly’s death. Also when will it be released on DVD already? Sheesh. Not that I don’t love watching the trailer for Black Magic Woman on my VHS copy (seriously, it is pretty damn hilarious- just look at the tagline), but come on guys. Let’s give Hal Hartley some high-quality, extras-ridden love.