The Unbelievable Truth, (Import DVD)

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The films of Hal Hartley, New York's modern beatnik cinema laureate, are not for everyone. His self-consciously clever ping-pong dialogue sounds like a cross between song lyrics and Samuel Beckett, while his deadpan direction gives a wry cast to it all. It's romantic comedy skewed through a thoroughly modern perspective, and it sprung fully formed in his debut feature. Gloomy redheaded pixie Adrienne Shelly, a neurotic high school student fixated on doomsday scenarios, falls for the tall, dark, and mysterious Robert Burke, a black-clad, philosophy-spouting mechanic who is constantly mistaken for a priest and rumored to be a convicted murderer.

An enigmatic, intellectually playful farce played with ironic understatement, Hartley's austere film was shot on the cheap with a handsome, restrained style and directed with an approach straddling verbal slapstick and modernist irony. Shelly mixes the goofy, obsessive distractions of a screwball heroine with smarts, determination, and hardball negotiating skills, while Burke's quiet calm and confidence radiates warmth and sincerity even while playing the loner. Hartley explores the line between truth and rumor, and he takes satirical swipes at the culture of cash and contracts--yet for all his irony he remains an optimist. For all its hip '90s attitude, the unbelievable truth is that Hartley is a romantic at heart. --Sean Axmaker

When Hal Hartley s feature debut The Unbelievable Truth was released in 1990, it proved a minor revelation. For a generation of college-aged young people raised on John Hughes movies Generation X, basically Hartley immediately became the new arbiter of cool, with Adrienne Shelly as his alternate-universe Molly Ringwald, an eccentric object of desire whose motives were tantalizingly mysterious... The Unbelievable Truth deconstructs a classic story of teenage rebellion, with Burke cast as the dangerous James Dean type, and Shelly as the girl whose attraction to him arises from a general impulse to defy what s expected of her. For his part, Burke is amusingly honest about his crimes he admits to killing a man after trying to apologize for killing the man s daughter two years earlier but like all the characters in the film, his first impression isn t the same as the last... The Unbelievable Truth tapped into a mood of disaffection that was creeping through the culture. Watching it 20 years later feels like time travel. --The Onion AV Club
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The Unbelievable Truth, (Import DVD)
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