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Home > Festivals & Events > Hal Hartley
American Possibility: The Cinema of Hal Hartley
February 1, 2013 until March 2, 2013

Hal Hartley will be in attendance for events on February 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.

“The Jean-Luc Godard of Long Island.”
  - The New York Times Magazine
“His work navigates a curious path between European existentialism and Hollywood screwball comedies of the Thirties.” - Ellen Levy, The Independent
“All actors love Hal.” - Parker Posey
When legendary film critic Andrew Sarris noted in the late 1980s that Hal Hartley, along with his contemporary independent filmmakers Steven Soderbergh and Whit Stillman, represented a possible renaissance in American auteurist cinema, he could not have foreseen how the coming years would confirm his hunch, particularly in Hartley’s case. In the two and a half decades since his arrival on the independent film scene, Hal Hartley has emerged as one of the most impressive and idiosyncratic contemporary American film artists, as an astute, witty observer of contemporary society, all while illuminating the subtle and seismic shifts in American sensibilities in an increasingly globalized world.

Born in 1959 in Lindenhurst, New York, on Long Island, Hartley has written and directed twelve feature films for the cinema since his acclaimed 1989 debut, The Unbelievable Truth. He has been lauded as a singular talent in the American independent film sector, collecting numerous awards. His work has been showcased at film festivals such as Sundance, Cannes, Berlin, Toronto, Rotterdam, Melbourne, Sydney, and countless others. Hartley has also worked extensively in the performing arts, directing opera and theatre productions in the United States and Europe.

Renowned for his articulate, sharp, often satirical, always compassionate scripts (Hartley writes and directs all his films; he also scores the music for them, under the pseudonym Ned Rifle), Hartley’s work combines the best of American-style exuberance and intelligence with broader artistic influences from Europe and Asia. His work has been favourably compared to the films of Hollywood comedic master, Preston Sturges, to the searching and formally inventive films of French New Wave legend, Jean-Luc Godard, to the kinetic, balletic solemnity of Buster Keaton movies.
Consistently engaged and formally daring, Hartley’s films of the 1990s (Trust, Surviving Desire, Simple Men, Amateur, Flirt, Henry Fool, The Book of Life)  examine the increasing materialism of American society, and its drift from its founding ideals, in the lives and loves of his offbeat and alienated characters, who search constantly – and often hilariously – for meaning and spiritual nourishment. Featuring a distinctive visual vocabulary and a number of familiar actors (Adrienne Shelly, Martin Donovan, Edie Falco, Robert John Burke, Elina Lowensohn, Bill Sage, Parker Posey, et al) Hartley’s style is immediately recognizable.  Into the 21st Century, post-9/11 American experience, Hartley’s cinema continues to probe dramatically how to transcend parochial, bestial political responses with hope and intelligence in films such as: No Such Thing, an eccentric love story that rewrites the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ myth; The Girl From Monday, a dystopian fable about a future society that has monetized virtually all of human experience; Fay Grim, a sequel to Henry Fool and a curious, shadowy political conspiracy film that crosses several continents; and Meanwhile, a New York story of compassion, awkward entrepreneurial energy, and, inevitably, crosstown traffic.
Stretching the possibilities of narrative, of film style, of actors’ performances, from The Unbelievable Truth to Meanwhile, the work of Hal Hartley is articulate and promising, melancholy and hopeful, intelligent and ironic, extravagant and restrained, erudite and elegant. While decidedly internationalist and outward looking, his is a clear, considered, quintessentially American voice, speaking not only to what is, but also to what just might be possible.

The Canadian Film Institute, in collaboration with the Embassy of the United States of America, is proud to mount this retrospective of the work of critically acclaimed, internationally celebrated American independent filmmaker, Hal Hartley.

Tom McSorley
Executive Director
Canadian Film Institute

Hal Hartley  •  United States of America  •  2012  •  62 min
Friday, February 1, 2013, 7:00 pm, Auditorium, 395 Wellington St.
Hal Hartley  •  United States of America  •  1991  •  107 min
Friday, February 1, 2013, 9:00 pm, Auditorium, 395 Wellington St.
Hal Hartley  •  United States of America  •  2005-2010  •  90 min
Saturday, February 2, 2013, 3:00 pm, Club SAW
Hal Hartley  •  United States of America  •  1994  •  105 min
Sunday, February 3, 2013, 7:00 pm, Auditorium, 395 Wellington St.
Hal Hartley  •  United States of America  •  1997  •  137 min
Wednesday, February 27, 2013, 7:00 pm, Auditorium, 395 Wellington St.
Hal Hartley  •  United States of America  •  2005  •  84 min
Friday, March 1, 2013, 8:30 pm, Auditorium, 395 Wellington St.
Hal Hartley  •  United States of America  •  2006  •  118 min
Saturday, March 2, 2013, 7:00 pm, Auditorium, 395 Wellington St.