Hal Hartley is a minor legend in the world of independent filmmaking, having directed nearly two dozen small films in the past two decades. I have never seen a single one of these movies, but my first exposure to Hartley, his new “The Girl from Monday,” is enough to make me wary of seeking them out.
It is set in the near future, following an American revolution in which a conglomerate called the Multi-Media Monopoly has been swept into power by an ad agency. People are commodities now, and the “insurgents” are people without credit ratings who do little or no consuming. You can insure your sex appeal now, and your stock goes up when you have sex. Making love because it’s fun or because you’re in love is unheard of. Oh, and the consumer-driven, uber-capitalist society now includes ad agencies that try to push elective heart surgery, the way plastic surgeons used to promote breast enlargements.
Into this world falls a woman without a name, played by Brazilian model Tatiana Abracos, who comes from a galaxy called Monday where people have no names, bodies or identities. She has adopted a rather lovely form on Earth and is found by Jack Bell (Bill Sage), a malcontent who works for the ad agency by day but secretly leads a counter-revolutionary movement by night. Aliens are common in this future world — they’re called “immigrants” — and the girl from Monday is here to find her friend, who came to Earth years ago and who she fears may be trapped in his terrestrial body. The girl runs that risk, too, if she stays too long, but Jack may be too busy with his bringing-down-The-Man activities to help her.
To describe it, the film sounds like a satire, but it doesn’t play like one. Neither is it pretentious or self-important the way many such high-minded movies are, and I’m certainly grateful for that. It does have an ethereal feel to it, though, shot on digital video, often converted to black-and-white, and with many shots manipulated so the characters appear to move erratically, as if trying to move through water.
Hartley’s fatal flaw is that none the characters are the least bit engaging, and his ideas are not exactly revolutionary. (America has become too consumer-driven?! Really?!?) It’s a flat, tedious film that, while perhaps accessible to a mainstream audience, would probably bore them, while indie-philes will be forced to admit that it simply has no substance.
D+ (1 hr., 24 min.; )