Socially inept garbage man Simon is befriended by Henry Fool, a witty roguish, but talent-less novelist. Henry opens a magical world of literature to Simon who turns his hand to writing the ‘great American poem’.
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Hartley's objective to test the complacency of his audience by creating an air of discomfort (either through the decision to make the title-character a sex offender, or through "gross-out" humour), mirrors the relationship between the characters on screen. However, like the ruminations of Henry, the film feels academic opposed to felt. It's an ambitious work with moments of real insight, but it doesn't always engage.
Hartley circumvented the possible humiliation of propping up a sincere fable about artistic glory / ignominy (purportedly inspired by the relationship between Joyce and Beckett) by making his most silly movie (even sillier than Amateur!). At the time it came out it felt a bit like a let down. Too arch? Too quirky? To droll? I loved revisiting it, but it still feels like it is apologizing for its ambition.
This is Hal Hartley's best work. And his best is not just very good, it is indescribably addictive and reminiscent of a better time in cinema, a time where cinema used to give its audience something more to feel instead of just giving you catchy dialogues to contemplate. Like I said, it is hard to describe. But if I was to describe it, I'd probably kill it. So do yourself a favour and give this one a try.
Fabulous film with fantastic artful and poetic dialog that rings true and gives the film a kind of charm that many character studies struggle with and ultimately never fully realize. Thomas Jay Ryan does such a remarkable job with the character of Henry Fool that this film requires multiple viewings.
This film is drier than dry-comedy itself. Dry/black/Deadpan humor usually rest on conversations, action, and quirky events. Henry Fool's morbid humor lies on the mood and the surprisingly charming events came out from paleness of events. Its comedy hangs in the air itself, it moves very awkwardly, very idiosyncratic, and retarded at times. This is one kind of a laugh I've never had before, and it is damn good.