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The locality of Hal Hartley: the aesthetics and business of smallness

Rawle, Steven (2016) The locality of Hal Hartley: the aesthetics and business of smallness. In: Rybin, Steve, (ed.) The Cinema of Hal Hartley: flirting with formalism. Columbia University Press

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Abstract

From the Lindenhurst settings of Hartley’s early Long Island films, ‘the local’ has been a key concern in his work. Even though his later work flirted with international locations, where the city plays a key role in Amateur, No Such Thing, The Girl from Monday and especially Fay Grim (even though Berlin stands in for parts of Queens), the aesthetic of Hartley’s work has remained singularly defined and local. This chapter will explore the aspect of ‘being local’ (to use Hartley’s words) in some of Hartley’s later work, especially the second Possible Films collection of short films (comprising The Apologies, Implied Harmonies, Adventure, Accomplice and A/Muse) and Meanwhile, a short feature intended only for the small screen. The chapter will argue that Hartley’s local approach to locations (including shooting in his own apartment and offices), space and theme is one that spans this collection of experimental work, even though the productions were separated by Hartley’s time in Berlin and New York. In many regards, the local is defined as obsessively small or limited, which allows Hartley to explore themes relating to personal interaction (Meanwhile), obsession (A/Muse) and artistic production (a theme that runs throughout Hartley’s oeuvre, from Flirt onwards). As such, the chapter will connect later developments in Hartley’s work that are rarely covered in writing about the filmmaker with the earlier, arguably more popular, phase of his career.
In so doing, the chapter will also intersect with Hartley’s development as a guardedly independent filmmaker, his move away from the Indiewood sector and growing reliance on crowdfunding to fund new work, as he did for the DVD release of Meanwhile, and the attempt to fund of Ned Rifle. The local is a defining feature of Hartley’s approach to both the aesthetic and business of filmmaking. Crowdfunding situates Hartley in close proximity to his audience, and extends the locality of the content into the production of his recent work and its distribution. As part of its conclusions, the chapter considers how this methodology and aesthetic positions Hartley in relation to the development of independent cinema – while the studios have gobbled up indie production and distribution – and how more marginal and artistic voices outside the mainstream continue to remain relevant with their audiences and how digital technology is connecting them to streams of funding and distribution. Perhaps paradoxically, the local is here being enabled by the transnational.

Item Type: Book Section
Status: Published
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
School/Department: School of Humanities, Religion & Philosophy
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/1306

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