Saturday, November 3, 8959

Hal Hartley (b. 1959)

Hal Hartley (b. November 3, 1959, Lindenhurst, NY) is the son of an ironworker.

Early on, Hartley was interested in painting and attended the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. While studying there, taking courses in filmmaking made him realize that this was what he wanted to do. He moved back to New York in 1980 and was accepted to the filmmaking program at SUNY Purchase where he met a core group of technicians and actors who would go on to work with him on his feature films years later.

Hartley graduated and moved to New York City in 1984. He shot his feature film debut, The Unbelievable Truth, in 1988 and remained extremely active in the years that followed; producing feature films like Trust, Simple Men, Amateur, and Flirt. Unlike most feature film directors, Hartley also continued making short films, many of which have been collected in a DVD anthology.

His films were often noted for dialogue that was simultaneously philosophical and humorous. In the early 90's, he often composed and performed the music for his films under the pseudonym Ned Rifle.

In 1996, he was made Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters of the French Republic along with novelist Paul West and journalist and publisher George Plimpton.

Hartley won the Best Screenplay Award at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival for his film Henry Fool just shortly after completing the short feature, The Book of Life, for French TV.


Henry Fool is a 1997 seriocomic film directed, written, produced, and with a musical score written by Hal Hartley, featuring Thomas Jay Ryan, James Urbaniak, and Parker Posey. As in The Unbelievable Truth, an earlier Hartley film, expectation and reality again conflict.
The film won the best screenplay award at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival, where it was also nominated for the Golden Palm.

Socially inept garbageman Simon Grim is befriended by Henry Fool, a witty rogue, but untalented novelist. Henry opens the world of literature to Simon, who then writes "the great American poem.” As Simon begins his ascent to the dizzying heights of Nobel Prize-winning poet, Henry sinks to a life of drinking in low-life bars. Henry's own attempts at fame result only in rejection by the same publisher who contracts with Simon to distribute his work. The friends fall out and lose touch until Henry’s criminal past catches up with him and needs Simon’s help in fleeing the country.


After Henry Fool, Hartley stayed on in Europe and staged his play, Soon, at the Salzburg Festival in Austria and then later that year in Antwerp. It was also staged in the US in November 2001.

From 2001 through 2004, Hartley was a visiting lecturer at Harvard University, while simultaneously editing No Such Thing, shooting The Girl From Monday, and writing his most recent feature, Fay Grim. He was awarded a fellowship by The American Academy in Berlin in late 2004 where he did research related to a proposed large-scale project concerning the life of French educator and social activist, Simone Weil.

[8960 Bono / 8959 Hartley]