Hal Hartley and Parker Posey are sort of like the Woody Allen and Scarlett Johansson of the independent film world. With his quirky, trademark style and her alluring beauty and charm, Hartley and Posey have become icons of art house cinema. With a highly regarded body of work between them, it made perfect sense that the two kicked off the 2007 Silverlake Film Festival with the west coast premier of Hartley’s latest film, “Fay Grim”. For those not familiar with Hartley’s filmmaking style “Fay Grim” is a quintessential example. As interpersonal relationships twist and turn with stylized action Hartley’s characters reveal themselves through tacit, deadpan dialogue often riddled with heartbreaking humor.
The story of “Fay Grim” actually begins twelve years earlier in Hartley’s 1997 masterpiece, “Henry Fool” (for which Hartley won the Best Screenplay award at Cannes in 1998). In “Henry Fool” Posey plays the shrill and oversexed sister to poet savant, Simon Grim who becomes a protégé to their family’s egomaniacal alcoholic boarder, Henry Fool. It’s not necessary to see “Henry Fool” to quickly understand its back story in terms of the much more intricate and politically charged sequel “Fay Grim”.
The film opens with a harried and frustrated Fay Grim, wife to missing husband, Henry Fool and single mother of precocious, trouble-making 14-year old Ned. Concerned her son is going to turn into his shiftless, wasted father Fay turns to her brother Simon (James Urbaniak), the celebrated poet serving a prison sentence for abetting Henry’s skip out of town seven years earlier. In the meantime, Simon begins to suspect that his slovenly ex-mentor may not have been the loser we met in “Henry Fool”. Perhaps Henry’s “Confessions” – an eight volume auto-biography is less a worthless literary joke and more likely, a coded espionage trail. When creepy CIA agent Fulbright (Jeff Goldblum) convinces Fay to travel to Paris to retrieve the missing volumes, she agrees only in exchange for Simon’s release from prison. The rest of the film weaves an intricate web of international lies, deception, terrorism, greed and surprisingly poignant love.
“Fay Grim” is a complicated movie that traverses a dynamically wide range of story lines and emotion. Each shot is filmed on an angle which lends a certain tension and discomfort to Fay’s mounting predicaments. Posey, as always, commands the screen with the contrast between the sharp angles of her face and the disheveled quality of her character. Part satire, part thriller, part melodrama Posey pulls off Hartley’s vision with an effortless poise so often eluding the hysterical female leads of mainstream film.
Both Hartley and Posey remained humbly taciturn during the brief introduction and Q&A preceding the screening of Fay Grim. Both were honored with the “Spirit of Silverlake Award” for career achievement in independent cinema, and then they each quietly took a seat and allowed “Fay Grim” to speak for herself.
We will not sell or distribute your e-mail address to anyone else.
Written by Staff Writer