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The Independent Culture

The decidedly overlong Henry Fool (140 minutes) is director Hal Hartley's most ambitious work yet. An overreaching, proudly scatological mock-epic, the movie details the transformation of one Simon Grim (James Urbaniak), a downtrodden, befuddled sanitation worker who lives with his depressive mother (Mary Porter) and nymphomaniac sister (Parker Posey). The near- mystical appearance one day of the dishevelled Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan) wreaks havoc in the Grim household. Both mother and sister are entranced; more importantly, with Henry's encouragement, Simon discovers a talent for writing scandalous yet mysteriously affecting poetry. By turns raunchy and reflective, Henry Fool is hardly short of ideas (Hartley touches on, among other things, art, commerce, fame, the nature of genius), but they're mostly vague or clumsily presented. Urbaniak's performance is ultimately what anchors the film: his deadpan gaze somehow suggests the most turbulent of inner lives.


French writer-director Erick Zonca's first feature won prizes at Cannes last year for both its leads, Elodie Bouchez and Natacha Regnier. Bouchez plays Isa, a spirited street urchin; Regnier is Marie, a willowy factory worker whose subdued exterior barely conceals an explosive anger. Despite their wildly differing personalities, the two young women become friends. Zonca's film deals with familiar subject matter but, on the whole, it has an admirably complex view of friendship. It's at its most effective when it is most melodramatic; its elegant depiction of dislocated lives coming together is, in the end, deeply moving.