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indieWIRE INTERVIEW | “Fay Grim” director Hal Hartley

indieWIRE INTERVIEW | "Fay Grim" director Hal Hartley

Picking up over seven years after “Henry Fool“, Hal Hartley brings us his version of the sequel. In “Fay Grim” Parker Posey again plays Fay, struggling with her son who is turning out to be much like his arrogant father Henry, missing now for seven years. When she’s sent by the CIA to Paris to get her husband’s belongings, she’s thrust into international espionage as she begins to uncover the truth about Henry. To Hartley fans everywhere, new work from the indie film maven is something to celebrate. Toronto Film Festival programmer Noah Cowan wrote: “Hartley’s films trade on rhythm and this requires an enormous command of tone by both actors and director. ‘Fay Grim’ is a perfect example of how a film can be dramatically elevated by a wildly successful collaboration in this area…” “Fay Grim” opens May 19th from Magnolia Pictures.

What initially attracted you to filmmaking?

Stories, I think. I thought stories were amazing. Then, I discovered how exciting moving pictures could be. I don’t think anything has really changed, ultimately.

Are there other aspects of filmmaking that you would still like to explore?

I’ve made music for other people’s movies and that was great. I might do that again.

How did how the initial idea for this film came about?

I was inspired to make a film with Parker Posey as the lead as a result of directing her in “Henry Fool” in 1996. When we were making “Henry Fool”, we all fell in love with the characters and felt we could use them as a vehicle to treat all sorts of subjects. So, the idea of a sequel, or a series, arose…

It was about looking at the earlier film and wondering what could have happened to these people in the time that has transpired. It’s as much to do with how the world has changed as with the characters. My overall goal is always to make a film about how we are now in this place. Only, in this case, Fay stands in for a certain type of excellent American – non-partisan, honest, brave, charitable, and terribly sexy.

What are some of the creative influences?

When I was younger, it was a lot more music; I wanted to make movies that were like what I admire about The Talking Heads and Elvis Costello – entertainment that was light but not trivial, and in some cases pretty thought provoking. Richard Lester‘s film with the Beatles, A Hard Day’s Night, has always been central to whatever I do. I still refer to it and try to steal things from it whenever I can. It was a film I grew up with as a child.

These days I’m more influenced by just being a person in the world trying to get by. When I was younger, it was about looking out at the world and following things that excited me – and those things would influence my own work. Now, it’s about looking out at the world and trying to figure out what’s the right thing to do – and that becomes the basis of what I write about. But, I guess, I have been encouraged to pursue this path by the example of others who have come before me: Godard, the songwriter David Byrne, the novelist Don Delillo, my composer friend Louis Andriessen

What other genres or stories would you like to explore as a filmmaker?

My aim for the past year or so, which I think feels like a long term thing, is to make movies only about what comes to me from daily experience. Not autobiography, but building stories out of the experiences of each day – which I’m sure are totally universal. Some examples being: living in a foreign country, learning a new language, going to visit my wife’s family in Japan, discussing World War II with my uncles, being a small business man, purchasing health insurance, friends dying, arguing about politics, worrying about friends who become religious… All that stuff.

My next film might be something called “The Business of Living“, which is about the friendship between a young artisan and an older business man and the various people they each take care of and depend upon. Or, it might be something called “The Current Crisis“, which is about an American porno-film producer in Berlin trying to break into the art-film business.

What is your definition of “independent film”?

I have never known what an independent film is exactly. Even if I said I did when I was younger, I must have been trying to conform to some popular conception of these things. I have always made the kinds of films I wanted to see in the way I wanted to make them. I’ve always felt like I’m a lot like other people. Maybe not like ALL people, but like a lot of people. I’ve always felt like I was making the films people like me would see if they had the chance.

What are some of your all-time favorite films, and why? What are some of your recent favorite films?

McCabe & Mrs. Miller
A Hard Day’s Night
The Wizard of Oz
Prenom Carmen/Book of Mary
Red River
Recent films… “The New World“, “Notre Music“, “Brown Bunny“…

What are your interests outside of film?

Novels, History, Architecture, and Music Composition.

What general advice would you impart to emerging filmmakers?

Know what it is that’s important to you and protect it.

What are you most proud of about your career?

Still being in business after twenty years. I have not had to file for bankruptcy.

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