The Unbelievable Truth (4/9)

Hartley’s defining trademarks — colorful, oddball characters, stylish camerawork and arch expressions of middle-class angst — drive this career-making deadpan farce, shot on an 11-day shoestring in Hartley’s hometown of Long Island, and nominated for the Sundance Grand Jury Prize. Unforgettable muse Adrienne Shelly debuts as a bright but apocalyptic teenager who rejects an invitation to Harvard and her nascent-yuppie boyfriend, to become obsessed with a handsome, enigmatic, celibacy-professing man in black: Josh (Robert John Burke), a brilliant auto mechanic just released from prison for murder, and hired to work at her father’s garage. No one in town can remember exactly what happened or how many people Josh killed, but rumors (and her father’s consternation) escalate as she and Josh find themselves increasingly attracted to each other and unsure what to do about it. This darkly comic, affectionate satire on the shortcomings of suburban living won the hearts of an emerging swell of disenchanted cool kids as well as the most jaded critics, with comparisons to Douglas Sirk, Rashomon, Sartre, and even Liz Smith.
Dir. Hal Hartley, 1989, digital presentation, 90 min.

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