The Unbelievable Truth 1989 ***

Hal Hartley is an American auteur whose best work deserves better than being dropped into a dusty oubliette. Before the highs of Amateur and Henry Fool, his debut The Unbelievable Truth features a simple story, careful performances, a delicate air of comedy and drama, and a number of other elements rarely seen in US indie cinema until the rise of mumblecore. Audry (Adrienne Shelly) lives in a small town, and she’s just broken up with her boyfriend. Josh (Robert John Burke) arrives with charm to burn, but also a dubious reputation; he’s just out of jail, and various whispers suggest he not only killed his girlfriend, but her father too. The truth, of course, is rather more believable than that, but Hartley’s film neatly dovetails the stripping away of the lies about Josh with Audry’s modelling career, which seems to involve fewer clothes with each gig. Popping up on Amazon streaming services might bring Hartley’s offbeat approach to a new audience; his use of space and silence is somewhat refreshing in today’s post MTV world, and The Unbelievable Truth shows the strength of the US indie scene before the Tarantinos and Soderberghs arrive to shake things up.


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