USA (MIFF 1990 )
Director: Hal Hartley

Hal Hartley's feature debut takes us back to his native Long Island, where the lovely, 17-year-old Audry Hugo, a nuclearphobic high school senior falls madly in love with a perfectly chiselled auto mechanic, who works for her maniacal father. Will the sensuous Audry explode her green ideals in the face of the very individual chemistry which draws her to this handsome, enigmatically dark stranger? How can she curb the disapproval of her hot-headed dad, whose main concerns are sending Audry to college and raking in the bucks she earns as a New York fashion model? Will Audry finally deflower virginal Josh who just wants to fix car transmissions and read all about George Washington?

The paradoxes suggested by the film's title rupture this middle-class melodrama by injecting a healthy dose of absurdity and giving a blackly humorous glimpse of contemporary capitalistic suburban life. Deliberately flat acting, Godardian interruptions and a deadpan drollness lend the work a perverse offbeat sensibility that punctuates directorial and narrative intentions.

Nothing is superfluous. The running stylistic commentary is never off-putting nor pretentious. The production design and camera are exacting, and an evocative musical score by Jim Coleman retains the sense of mystery that launches the film, even after satire begins to overtake melodrama.

Director's note: "Teenage sex. Nuclear winter. Junior Mss Fashionwear. And the mechanics of emotional capitalism. I was really startled once when I saw the Playboy centrefold. On the back they supplied a little scrapbook-type history of the girl in the picture. . . Most amazingly, they had a snapshot of the girl from her high school days standing alongside her mom and dad and brothers and sisters. . . I often think of that happy little family snapshot while considering commerce. And then there's the problem of reconciling my natural distrust of humanity with the faith I know I need to have in order to survive." - Hal Hartley

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