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Overall Rating

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 20.69%
Pretty Bad: 27.59%
Total Crap51.72%

4 reviews, 5 user ratings

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Girl From Monday, The
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by Chris Parry

"Iím beginning to question what I ever saw in Hal Hartley."
1 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: My coming of age as a fan of cinema really centered around three people. Kevin Smith brought me in by showing me real people could make movies. Jim Jarmusch took me deeper by making me think about what things in movies mean. And Hal Hartley besotted me with an original style of dialogue, direction and music, the likes of which Iíd never seen before. Those three had me at hello, and I willingly paid to see anything they put their name to over the years that followed. Sure, Smith has struggled of late to bust out of the Jay and Silent Bob mode, and Jarmusch might be more and more an acquired taste, but I still bother with them because thereís something that always makes me smile to their work. But Hartleyís last two films indicate to me that heís simply lost the plot entirely.

Hartleyís last project, No Such Thing, was an exercise in futility and directorial miscalculation that had fans of his work wondering if maybe they just didnít get it. But hey, everyone is allowed one stinker now and then, so few would have turned away from a chance to see Hartleyís latest flick, The Girl From Monday. Big mistake. Unfortunately, this is a film that only proves the auteur has failed to learn from previous mistakes, and has instead made them all over again and opted to call it his new style.

Well, take it from a Hartley fan - if this is the new Hal Hartley, Iím not interested.

An ad executive (Bill Sage) has come up with a plan to take over the government and then list human beings on the stock exchange, with their share price being calculated by the number of relationship-free sexual encounters they can have. The ad man eventually decides heís not real happy with having the human race turned into a for-profit operation, so after meeting a girl from another planet, he decides to help the anti-dehumanization rebels beat down the corporate takeover of humanity, with the aid of a female co-worker (Sabrina Lloyd) who was once the poster child of the new fascists. Amidst that, plenty of men in black helmeted sci-fi uniforms run about with laser pistols, some bad teenage actors play rebel types badly, the alien character looks longingly into the camera but doesnít actually do anything, and the political message behind it all ranges from the extreme to the ridiculous.

In trying to go beyond satire, Hartley has seemingly created a parody of satire, embracing overacting, underacting, minimalist sets, high school film-standard action pieces, pointless digital effects and political ideals that border on the obscenely paranoid. He has plumbed the depths of self importance like never before, and while every independent filmmaker sometimes makes mistakes and goes off on tangents that mean more to himself than anyone else, there can be little doubt that Hartley is working very deliberately in this new direction, and even trying to piss off those who pay to see his work. In No Such Thing, Hartleyís big attempt to become political and comment on the ills of our society, failed miserably. It was too real to be fantasy and too fantastic to be real, instead languishing somewhere around boring and ridiculous (and this is coming from a fan!). Hartley had no problem touching on politics with his earlier works, like Simple Men, but did so in a way that made you think while you watched a story, rather than driving you out of the story to try to fathom what the filmmakerís big bitch with the world is. In The Girl From Monday, Hartley lashes out at everyone, seemingly burned from his many years forced to the peripheries, and determined to be anti-everything, including anti-watchable.

The Girl From Monday is an experience seemingly designed to drive the audience not to think as much as be incredibly bored with what theyíre watching. Hartleyís slow, thoughtful dialogue is normally a treat, making his films very much a unique experience, even if you closed your eyes and just listened to them. In Amateur, his casting was impeccable, his style magnetic. In Flirt, he was creative and original. In Henry Fool he created a world that you wouldnít want to live in, but felt compelled to experience closely as an onlooker. But this new Hartley isnít original, and isnít creative. Rather, heís trying to be the opposite of everything else out there, even that which isnít crap. Itís not that heís creating, itís that heís de-creating. Heís not putting out a thesis, heís playing the antithesis. Itís no longer a case of what Hal Hartley does with his films, but what he refuses to do with them.

Hartley canít even seem to just show the damn images like any other filmmaker would, instead removing every second or third frame so that the image comes across blurrier, less real and constantly annoying. The effect is to take you out of the story from start to finish Ė as youíre trying to follow the action, the very action itself is determined to frustrate. Like a child stomping on the ground, refusing to eat his broccoli, Hartley is now seemingly determined to not be like everyone else, even to the point of making his films intentionally unrealistic, goofy and incomprehensible. Some may call it art, some might even call it his best work, but I honestly hated every moment of this exercise.

Maybe Hartley is experimenting, trying to create a work that will be remembered for being so different that it was hard work to get through. Maybe heís looking to test an audience and have them discuss why they hated his film so much. But whatever the explanation, Iím really not that interested anymore. If Hartley wants to achieve an annoying movie experience, while charging people for the pleasure of taking part, he can get stuffed. On the other hand, if thatís not what he wants to achieve, then he needs to wake up and take a look at what heís actually doing, because right now his work is nigh incomprehensible, mostly unfathomable and unmistakably self-reverential.

Hal Hartley once had an original voice that cinema purists the world over admired and respected. Maybe he could care less about such things now, and instead wants to make a difference in the world of social activism, but you simply canít do that by pissing off the people paying to hear your message. Iím not looking for a Hartley version of American Pie, I just want to be able to watch a damn film without feeling like Iím being Punkíd.

An interminable movie experience... there's no other way to describe it.

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originally posted: 02/12/05 08:02:09
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Independent Film Festival of Boston. For more in the 2005 Independent Film Festival of Boston series, click here.

User Comments

10/03/09 rafalg see this movie if you want to punish yourself for something really bad 1 stars
2/20/06 Todahe Really very bad 1 stars
6/29/05 Naka Fuck! 1 stars
4/16/05 craig varney this film is alien to me it's out there 2 stars
1/26/05 PolkaBoy Diabolically bad. Interminable mess. 2 stars
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Directed by
  Hal Hartley

Written by
  Hal Hartley

  Leo Fitzpatrick
  Juliana Francis
  Sabrina Lloyd
  Bill Sage
  D.J. Mendel
  Tanya Perez

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