Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

Cigarettes. Books. Acerbic aphorisms. (The kind Jean-Paul Sartre and BFF Holden Caulfield would have folded into fortune cookies.) Those are the basic ingredients of Hal Hartley’s droll cinema of self-deprecating intellectualism and hipster sentimentality. If Hartley’s fondness for bohemian touchstones seems so 20th-century today -- yo, bro, seen my Kindle? -- it was intentionally, willfully anachronistic back in the 1980s with his early works The Unbelievable Truth and Trust. Those wonderfully wordy movies were succeeded by Surviving Desire (1991), another portrait of brainy urbanites (a professor and his student, in this case) straining for romantic ideals amid the neck-deep compromises of post-Reagan capitalism. Steeped in old-fashioned notions of integrity and loyalty, Hartley's characters always seem out of time. From that perspective, it makes perfect sense that he would imagine Jesus Christ as a conflicted prophet in modern-day Manhattan in The Book of Life (1998). Both films feature the director's lanky alter ego, Martin Donovan, who once vowed (only half-joking) that he'd never work with Hartley again if he had to puff his way through a whole shoot.
Sept. 27-28, 7 p.m., 2010

 
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