American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
I should like Hal Hartley's “Flirt” a lot more than I do, since it illustrates one of my favorite mantras: “A film is not about what it is about, but how it is about it.” A good film or a bad film can be made about anything. Therefore, to dismiss (or praise) a film solely because of its subject matter, it is not necessary to see it. That is why people who make statements beginning with the words “I don't like films about...” are idiots, or censors.
What “Flirt” does is tell the same story three different times, in three different countries, in three slightly different ways. Thus it proves my point. All three stories are “about” the same thing--a flirtatious lover trying to decide between two enticing partners. By telling the story three times, Hartley invites us to see the story as simply the occasion for the exercise of his art. Which of the versions, we can ask, tells the story best? The “New York” section of the film involves a man who ends up explaining, “I was shot by the husband of a woman I thought I might be in love with.” The “Berlin” section involves a gay man who explains, “I was shot by the wife of a man I thought I might be in love with.” In “Tokyo,” the milieu changes to the intrigues in a dance troupe, but the dynamic is essentially the same.
In each story, a character is about to leave town and asks a new lover: “Do we have a future together?” In each story, the new lover asks for time, and calls another lover, trying to decide between the two. In each story, three bystanders give advice. In each story, there is a telephone conversation involving much use of the word “no,” and a shooting, and a scene in an emergency room.
As an idea, I like it. It would be useful in a film class. I will refer to it in other reviews. It illustrates a point, and an approach. It took nerve to make. Hartley keeps pushing the edges of the envelope. But it's not much fun to watch.
At the ripe age of 89, Oscar can still be a notoriously picky fellow when it comes to what constitutes a contender fo...
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...