red roses for me
It's typical that a film that has been described in several places as Hal Hartley's first "epic" features what seems like no more than a dozen locations with the bulk of the two plus hours spent lingering in a dingy dank basement or at The World Of Doughnuts. The film itself though stretches itself further than any of Hartley's previous work combining his usual rich attention to detail and dialogue amongst the small cast but instead of just concentrating on the dynamics between them expands them into an almost fully formed story. Spread over several years & encompassing a development in the characters you would never guess at when you first see the geek-like Simon Grim on his knees, head to the ground as he watches Henry Fool stride down the road towards him like a character from a Sergio Leone western with the air of a mysterious preacher man.

His only possessions apparently several journals containing his "masterpiece" Henry moves into the dimly lit basement of Simon's house, proceeds to encourage Simon to start producing an epic poem and sets into motion a chain of events that eventually reverse the fortunes of the main characters. To great effect Hartley never lets the audience see or hear any of this poem which is either revered or reviled depending on the reader.
All this is carried off with the masterful skill you expect from Hartley with a budget that probably wouldn't cover the cost of catering on the latest Hollywood no-brainer. The lyricism of his previous films remains & the almost comic moments are still there but this time interjected with some scenes of vomiting, suicide & domestic violence that at times appear so out of the blue that their effect is easily doubled.

Rounded off with a scene where Hartley escapes from the confines of NYC, but only to Newark Airport the ending is left open to interpretation as to whether Henry is running towards freedom or away from accepting that responsibility. All in all a film previous fans of Hartley will love and newcomers can immerse themselves in.

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