Hal Hartley has a fine name, a bright exhalation of a name, prancingly rhythmic, mildly heroic, suggestive of things boyish, airy, lyrical. A better name, perhaps, for an athlete -- a high jumper or a thrower of javelins -- than a filmmaker, but there we are: The world is full of mismatches.
Don't go see Human Nature in the art house. Stay away, if you can, from the like minds and the cineastes and the smell of Central American coffee. The place to see a film as fluidly daft, as limpidly out-there as this is at the mall, where you can slide from the theater's darkness into a light that shelves upward through golden pleasure domes and plunges down escalators into caves of ice. You can gaze in woozy alarm at busy customers and fierce, iconic salespersons. You can trip across the moats and the jeweled yards, hearing the perfumed hiss of high-end retail. You can behave, in short, like a stoned 16-year-old until Human Nature wears off (it takes about 25 minutes). I call it getting your money's worth.
I was once at a club in London where the Philadelphian rapper Schoolly D was performing. It was a tense affair: Schoolly was notorious at the time for his super-vicious raps, and the English crowd -- lost in a thin, fuming rancor that seemed to find its outlet when one concertgoer doused another with lighter fluid and tried to ignite him -- was suffering acutely with feelings of inferiority and inauthenticity. Midway through Schoolly's set, the rapper stepped demurely into the wings and allowed his DJ, Code Money, a few moments of naked self-advertisement. Alone on the stage, Code Money scratched and span, flickering between his two turntables as if strobe-lit. The sounds he made were purely novel; his dexterity, preposterous.
There is poetry -- or a good rhyme, at least -- in the fact that Disney's new adaptation of Alexandre Dumas's 1845 novel The Count of Monte Cristo was written by a man better known as a producer and creator of TV game shows. Jay Wolpert has labored for decades in game-show land: Double Dare, Whew!, Hit Man, and Blackout are some of his creations, and for a time he produced The Price Is Right. As a devout student of fortune, of the kinks and quirks of the wheel, he should be better qualified than most writers to take on Dumas's epic study of ruin, reward, philosophy, and turning the world to one's ends.
I suspect filmmaker Todd Solondz of being the sort of man who has difficulties with public transport. I imagine him staggering gray-faced off the bus with his sense of self almost erased by the stink and proximity of his fellow man; or hanging grim as a bat in the far corner of a subway car, his mind flickering with antipathy. Am I being unfair? Perhaps I am. But so many things in his movies -- their generalized disgust, their unpleasant clarity of tone, and (most of all) their looming, one-dimensional people -- remind me of a low-level panic attack.