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Directors in Focus
Hal Hartley: The Last Auteur

Over the past decade, Hal Hartley has operated largely under the radar of the massive media attention focused on "independent film" in this country. At the same time, he is viewed abroad as one of the most significant American directors of his generation. Hartley was selected by French television’s La Sept Arte as the sole American participant in its prestigious "2000 Seen By" film series and was tapped by the Salzburg Opera Festival for a major staging of his play Soon. Festival awards for his screenplays at Sundance and Cannes bear witness to Hartley’s gift for quirky characters, lively dialogue, and wry humor: his films are all immediately identifiable by the deliberate cadence to his actors’ delivery and the strange normalcy that cloaks even the most eccentric turns of his plot lines. Yet these films are marked equally by a sensuous awareness of color and formal movement, as well by their hip rock scores—often composed and performed by the ubiquitous Ned Rifle (a Hartley alter ego). A fundamental humanity—reminiscent of the sensibility of the French New Wave—pervades Hartley’s narratives, even amidst outbursts of violence and quiet despair. In brief, he is an auteur. And if we can be said to have reached the end of cinema, then Hal Hartley may well be our last auteur.

February 2 (Friday) 7 pm


Directed by Hal Hartley
US 1991, 35mm, color, 90 min.
With Adrienne Shelly, Martin Donovan, Merritt Nelson

Hartley’s second feature begins with a stunning revelation from Maria (Shelly), a ditzy Long Island high school student and mother-to-be. The parental fallout from this disclosure has fatal consequences on the home front and sets Maria on an oblique course of self-discovery by way of an abortion clinic and the local convenience store. Midway through her journey, she meets Matthew (Donovan), an enigmatic, chain-smoking computer technician who lives at home with his obsessive-compulsive father and keeps a live grenade in his pocket. Somehow, in the Hartley scheme of things, they make a near-perfect couple—even if their futures remain as indeterminate as the nature of their relationship.

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February 2 (Friday) 9 pm


Directed by Hal Hartley
US/France 1994, 35mm, color, 105 min.
With Isabelle Huppert, Martin Donovan, Elina Löwensohn

Setting forth what is perhaps the apex of Hartley’s uncanny misalliances, Amateur convenes an ex-nun-cum-pornographic-novelist (Huppert), an amnesiac hustler (Donovan), and his prostitute wife (Löwensohn) in a roundelay of trouble and desire as each tries to escape from the illicit sex-and-drugs demimonde of lower Manhattan. Ensconced in a coffee shop booth, the former nun is at work on her next installment for Wet & Wild magazine when the disheveled hustler, who has managed to survive a nasty fall from the upper-story window of an adjacent building, enters and attempts to pay his check with Dutch money. Their meeting initiates his attempt to regain his memory of the past and her quest to begin to experience life first-hand.

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Special Event—all seats $10
Director Hal Director Hal Hartley in Person

February 3 (Saturday) 7 pm

Alternative Works by Hal Hartley

This special program brings together several of Hartley’s rarely seen recent works. Produced on digital video, they include the shorts The New Math(s), based on a text by William Blake and with a score by the celebrated Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, and The Other Also, commissioned by a French art gallery. Also included is Hartley’s striking contribution to the "2000 Seen By" series of international works commissioned by French television, The Book of Life, a darkly comic retelling of the Apocalypse with Martin Donovan as Jesus and Thomas Jay Ryan as the Devil. Hartley will also screen and discuss his most recent film, the lyrical Kimono, a ghost-story psychodrama which features Miho Nikaidoh.

February 4 (Sunday) 7 pm

Simple Men

Directed by Hal Hartley
US 1992, 35mm, color, 102 min.
With Robert John Burke, William Sage, Elina Löwensohn

A crime story that detours into family drama, Simple Men focuses on two brothers—a double-crossed armed robber (Burke) and a young, bookish college student (Sage)—who are reunited in a quest to find their long-lost father. In search of the infamous "radical shortstop," a baseball star-turned-anarchist who may have bombed the Pentagon in the 1960s, their underfinanced journey takes them through the hamlets of Long Island and into glancing contact with a lovelorn sheriff, a furtively smoking nun, and a guitar-playing gas station attendant. En route to this unlikely reunion, the older brother utters the now-classic Hartley line, "There’s no such thing as adventure or love, only trouble and desire."

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February 4 (Sunday) 9 pm


Directed by Hal Hartley
US/Germany/Japan 1995, 35mm, color, 85 min.
With Bill Sage, Parker Posey, Martin Donovan

Hartley’s most experimental feature, Flirt is a thrice-told tale about mis-directed love. It begins with his short film Surviving Desire, about a lower Manhattan "flirt" (Sage) who is torn between committing to his two-timing girlfriend (Posey) or starting a new affair with a friend’s wife. Hartley then twice translates this modern romantic allegory—in a sort of postmodern Rashomon endeavor—shifting locales and gender orientations while retaining identical dialogue and plot complications. In the first of these alternative narratives, a gay American expatriate in Berlin struggles with making a commitment. In the final installment, the story shifts to Tokyo, where the flirt is now a lovely dance student (Miho Nikaidoh) unable to commit to a lasting relationship with her American lover (Hartley himself).

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