On Fay Grim

The movies of Hal Hartley aren’t for everybody. The off-kilter camera angles, the slow-motion shots, the utter nonsense of so much of the dialogue … I could go on and on about the various tics that make up every movie of his I’ve seen, and Fay Grim is no exception. And yet, and yet … where else will you find a world in which a garbageman becomes a poet, and then becomes a superstar? In the world of Henry Fool (the ‘prequel’) and Fay Grim, life revolves around literature to the extent that authors are treated like rock stars and sports heroes, while the lunatic ravings of diarist who can’t write a novel become the center of international intrigue. It’s an atypical inversion of your standard writer’s paranoia, which might well be why almost every frame is shot at dutch angles. It also has a great deal to do with why Hartley appeals to writerly types.

I don’t think “hip” has as much to do with its creation as many comments at Rotton Tomatoes suggest, although I’ll concede that the flatly delivered dialogue and the almost infinitely involuted plot can be grating. I’d be surprised if Hartley wasn’t aware of this (I can’t imagine he’d think his movie could be confused with The Bourne Identity), but the high definition video he uses to capture all that dialogue and plot is absolutely merciless. Very arid looking. He’s lucky to have the likes of Parker Posey and James Urbaniak to work with, not to mention the A list of Models, Inc. for the smaller parts. On the other hand, I’ve always thought Jeff Goldblum was pretty goofy looking, and he’s cast perfectly as the CIA agent not so hot on the trail of Fay’s husband. Don’t see it if you haven’t seen Henry Fool, and even if you have seen Henry Fool, expect to enjoy Fay Grim for different reasons. Assuming you enjoyed Henry Fool, which, granted, will seem to some a pretty crazy assumption to make.


  1. Matthew Lickona says

    Not sure he’ll ever top Simple Men. “There’s no such thing as adventure and romance. There’s only trouble and desire.”

  2. Quin Finnegan says

    I’m adding it to the queue. And that’s certainly a great line, although I’d be tempted to rewrite it: ‘There’s only desire … and trouble.’

    Sorry. It’s all the Girard. Or the te qill ya.

Speak Your Mind