"Certain work needs to be experienced all at once in order for one to appreciate the full force of it's character."
Sorry for no picture, but blogger is being a real dick. If you want to see the poster for the film, here ya go.
Damn the bandwidth police!
It's funny that this line from Henry Fool can sum up the works of Hartley himself. As a premptive shut up to Stev and Kevner who for some reason didn't appreciate the fill force of this films character, I would like to say no independent American film can stack up to the sheer quality, philosophy and unique style as Henry Fool. Minus the foreign films on this list, everything to come in the top 10 is a major studio work. Here in Hartley's epic and last true independent film we have three stories with equal importance and three characters with equal development. The story is strange and takes place in not so many locations, but it has so many important values attatched to it that it becomes an epic.
First the story of Henry Fool. The man is a wanderer, a poet and a degenerate. The things we hear him say makes us see an intelllectual, but his actions make us think of a bum or a convict. Hisn ultimate goal is to finish his magnum opus, or as he calls it, his "Confession." It's his story dating back to time he did in prison for Statch. His tale is written in many copy books and we never get to see his works. At the beginning of the film, we see him walking down the road like a lone warrior on an adventure with a ciggarette for a sword and his briefcase of writings as a shield. He wanders into the lives of the Grimm family where we meet the two other characters so important to this tale.
Simon, a lowly trashman who barely talks and some think is "retarded" meets Henry, befriends him after some strange events occur to him at his work and Henry soon lives in his basement. Simon's story is the most moving and inspiring. Simon, who seems to be slow, takes up writing after he almost begins to be obsessed with Henry's story (not the "Confession" since he doesn' t read that till later.) Simon starts writing and although his spelling " is neanderthal", he wrote his first poem in a sort of "Iambic Pentameter." His genius shines through as his poem is either hated for its subject matter or is loved for its sheer brilliance. Again, we never get to here his work or know what its about.
Fay Grimm is the beautiful slut in the beginning and the voice of reason for Henry by the end. Her attitude toward life changes as Henry comes in and shatters their strange hom exsistence. She falls for Henry, marries him and slowly brings Henry out of his dream world of writing and into a more domestic life as Simon and Henry change roles.
This film is very complex. It can be hard to swallow upon it's first viewing. But may I say that the more you watch, the more you get from it. Beyond the philosophical and empowering storyline, you will get some ridiculously hilarious moments and some of the fastest and greatest dialogue ever written. The performances are also unique following the usual next to emotionless characters who seem to be reciting their lines rather than actually saying them. I beleive this is the biggest hump to get over for someone watching Hartley films, but get over it... it's his style. When you appreciate what he is going for (having the dialogue be more like a message than a story and have the characters merely the vessel for these messages) you will learn the true greatness of this film.
I forgot to mention as this is a later draft of this very review that the three main actors, Parker Posey as Fay, James Urbaniak as Simon and Thomas Jay Ryan as the titular character are three superb performances.
As for the quote at the top, Hartley needs to be appreciated in bulk. Not in one sitting maybe, but the more Hartley films you see (esp. the ones leading up to this, his finest moment) you get a full library of meaningful stories and tales filled with the strange, the beautiful, the tragic and the hilarious.