Epochal indie auteur Hal Hartley has been a frequent flyer on Kickstarter for a while now, having launched campaigns for his films Meanwhile, Ned Rifle, and the home media release of his Henry Fool trilogy. Now he’s back with a project that should get the hearts of cineastes of a certain vintage racing: a DVD/Blu Ray box set of his seminal Long Island Trilogy (The Unbelievable Truth, Trust, and Simple Men).
As Hartley writes on the campaign page, “These, my first three feature films from the early nineteen-nineties, remain some of my most popular. However, they’ve been hard to find. And I’ve been working for years to bring them together, restore them in HD and make them available with subtitles in various languages. And now I have done that. The DVDs are available in NTSC (Japan & North America) and PAL (EU & elsewhere) formats. Both the DVDs and Blu-rays are not region coded – so they will play whether you are in the UK, France, Poland or elsewhere.”
Good-o. On the one hand, it’s great that these films are being restored and released in a hi-def format, and in a format that makes them available to as wide a range of collectors as possible (or at least feasible). Before Tarantino came along, Hal Hartley was one of the defining voices of ’90s indie cinema (technically The Unbelievable Truth is ’89, but it’s still ’90s AF) – you’re nearest point of comparison would probably be Steven Soderbergh’s early works. Hartley’s photo should be next to the dictionary definition of Art House Darling, and his first seven features comprise a nigh-unparalleled string of artistic achievement, all the while speaking in the same clear and unmistakable authorial voice.
On the other hand, it is fucking insane that Hartley’s films have become so hard to find. The reasons are obscure – whether we can pin it on the circumstances of the original productions, rights issues, the vicissitudes of the modern marketplace or – most likely, let’s face it – a combo of all three is unclear. We know the screen market is absolutely flooded right now, and plenty of worthy films don’t get a fair shake in front of an audience, but it is straight up nuts that a filmmaker of Hartley’s talent and historical importance has fallen through the distro gaps to such a degree* – you should, by rights, be able to find Trust et al at your local JB Hi-Fi alongside the Marvel box sets and Packed to the Rafters season collections.
Still, here we are, and Hartley has an extra treat in store for fans as well: “Along with the new box-set of the Long Island Trilogy, I am preparing a new CD of music from those films, remixes, and previously unreleased alternate versions of tunes.”
So we’ve got that going for us.
Of course, a limited production run like this probably isn’t as affordable as we’d like it to be (the Blu Ray collection is $70US plus shipping), but this is one of those things where the cultural benefits certainly outweigh the personal cost. Shoot over to the Kickstarter page and consider throwing in even a couple of bucks – indie film culture will thank you.
*Unless, of course, this is all by Hartley’s own choice, in which case never mind us – we’re just a bit high strung.