The Unbelievable Truth

Screening on Film
Directed by Hal Hartley.
With Adrienne Shelley, Robert Burke, Christopher Cooke.
US, 1989, 35mm, color, 90 min.
Print source: HFA

The first feature by independent filmmaker Hal Hartley (Trust, Simple Men, Amateur), The Unbelievable Truth is the story of a small town disrupted by the return of an alleged murderer, now a mild-mannered mechanic (Burke), and his unlikely liaison with a high-school cynic turned model (Shelley). Shot in a mere eleven days, The Unbelievable Truth contains many of the attributes that have come to be associated with Hartley’s work: a wry and decidedly off-beat sense of humor; a predominantly young cast creating colorful, quirky characters; and a sensuous awareness of how to render color, movement, and space into cinematic expression (an awareness gleaned no doubt in part through Hartley’s devotion to the work of Jean-Luc Godard). This affectionate satire on the shortcomings of small-town life reflects on how hearsay and bias can shape a community’s sense of reality.

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Treasures from the Harvard Film Archive: U–Z