In late 90’s I had to leave university where I was a fine arts student due to an illness, and move in with my parents. I took some months off of school in general to recover, and had a lot of time on my hands to do ..well whatever. I could no longer paint at the time and so instead I explored my two other loves film and music, subsequently discovering many really interesting artists working in both.
Film especially was a thing for me, and I have to admit I took an active part in not only purchasing films on ebay (this was still VHS tapes time) but also participating in debates about film on message boards. One board I was particularly active on was one dedicated to the films of Hal Hartley. There is a good chance if you are under 40 you have not heard of Hal Hartley. I myself don’t know what I would think if I was to start watching his films now. But seeing them in my late teens early 20’s was an event . As a trivia point, some of the now famous Sopranos actors had their start with Hal, and Isabelle Huppert very randomly had a part in what was maybe my favorite film of his at the time.
His stories are about heart break, love, connection – all the themes we are familiar with, but told honestly, achingly, and completely originally. There were actors who appeared over and over, Martin Donovan, Adrienne Shelley, Parker Posey, and even Edie Fallco.
Hartley’s films were also a space for some of the best alternative bands working at the time, his sound tracks were as interesting as his films. PJ Harvey, Yo la Tengo, Red House Painters and many more made repeat appearances in the music accompanying his films, and I discovered many great musicians simply by browsing through the soundtracks.
I loved the titles of his films – they were abstract, but summed up what each film was about: Trust, Surviving desire, Amateur, Simple men, The unbelievable truth, and many more.
The films spoke to that generation, but perhaps if you watch them with an open mind, forgetting that film making has evolved as it does always, and just listen to the story, they will speak to you as well.