His near stammering. With disconcerting promptness one word hid behind another. -- Maurice Blanchot, Le Dernier Homme Contact me: red3ad (at) yahoo (dot) com


Not so Simple Men (and one simpleton) 

There’s a scene in Godard’s Helas pour moi in which a woman rides a bicycle into the frame, dismounts, and in the process of walking away from the bike it simply falls over: she makes no attempt to lay it down, nor does she fling it away. There’s no reaction to the clatter of it falling away whatsoever. The action’s gratuitous; it’s weirdly unsettling and weirdly, almost funny. It made me think of Hal Hartley, in a way, and then think how elements of Godard have influenced him. (While second-rate Hartley movies are still pretty good, I’d rather concentrate on what I think are his better ones - Simple Men, The Unbelievable Truth, Amateur. Maybe not here, but at a later date. What I would like to note here is the amazing sort of dead-pan style HH employs with his script and actors. For lack of a better genre, his movies are generally filed under “comedy,” but the humor’s too oblique, I think, for that. There’s more of a dramatic element, but it’s skewed. It’s hard to describe exactly *what* makes them seem so odd [at least upon first viewing] to me. A big part of it is the acting; it’s forced, but in a completely different sort of way -- completely flat and over-the-top at the same time. A lot of it is phrasing, I think, nuances of delivery. Odd stresses. And, like Bergman, he tends to use the same actors again and again. I’ve seen several of them in other movies or tv [Karen Sillas was in a short-lived knock-off of “Prime Suspect” called “Under Suspicion” some years back; quite a good show -- ranks up there close to “Homicide.”] HH also tends to use music in an interesting way).
Subsequent to watching Helas pour moi & thinking this, I’ve come across a couple of references to HH being influenced by Godard, and I’m thinking of this now because JLG’s Notre Musique is showing in town this weekend. (Notes to follow). As readers here have noticed, I’m a big fan. I’m amused and impressed by JLG’s refusal of the NY Film Critics’ award for, among other things, the state of the US film industry and holding the critics’ and said industry accountable for Spielberg’s Schindler’s List.
It occurs to me that there are genuine influences, subconscious or not (ie HH and JLG); then there are more calculated moves, such as Quentin Tarrantino calling his production company “Bande à Part." One thing I’d like JLG to do is to say “Tarrantino, would you please SHUT THE FUCK UP!”
By the way, recently saw A Very Long Engagement. It’s JUST like Amelie, except with bodies being blown apart in the muck of WWI. No creme brulée.

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