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HENRY FOOL

By admin | June 29, 1998

Writer-Director Hal Hartley has made good on the threat of “Flirt” and unleashed a powerful new talent out of the indie ghetto. Unfolding and sounding like a novel, Hartley’s ensemble of lower-class losers clash and repel in a startlingly, unpreachy lesson about the importance and danger of influences.
Simon Grimm (James Urbaniak) is a young, nearly autistic garbage man living with his nymphomaniac sister, Faye (Parker Posey) and his mother. One day, homeless, ex-con, sort of pedophile Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan) marches up their street and moves into their basement for rent to complete his literary masterpiece, “Confessions”. He’s probably the first friend Henry’s ever had, and forces Henry to write down his thoughts. Henry immediately writes poetry in iambic pentameter of a Burroughs-like nature, and greatly affects all whom Henry forces it upon.
When I saw “Flirt”, the same story with the same dialogue told three times in three drastically different ways, I was put off by the weird formalism of the dialogue at first. I was struck by how powerful it was at the end. I had chalked it up to Hartley gaining inspiration and confidence as he went along, but I had the exact same feeling with Henry Fool. It can take a moment to adjust to how the characters express themselves but the unbelievable truth of the characters shines through.

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