Simple Men follows on from the release of another Hal Hartley Blu-ray debut, Amateur.
It begins as Bill McCabe (Robert John Burke) conducts a robbery with Frank (James Hansen Prince) and Vera (Mary McKenzie), but those associates of his stiff him on the deal, leaving him with a fraction of the money he should’ve had.
We learn that his family have got past form, because his father has gone to jail, although subsequently having a stroke has caused him to land in hospital. He’s a jailbird because he was convicted of bombing the Pentagon 23 years earlier.
Hanging around with his brother, Dennis (Bill Sage), the people they meet along the way include schoolgirl Kim (Holly Marie Coombs), who comes from a convent where the head nun smokes and gets into a fight with a policeman; Martin (Martin Donovan), a man chopping up fish for fertiliser to plant trees; Elina (Elina Löwensohn), who is seen having an epileptic fit before they arrive and they help carry her into Kate’s (Karen Sillas) house.
And before Damian Young played the whacked-out guy in Amateur, he plays a whacked-out Sheriff in this one, a character who’s clearly not playing with a full deck, and who is called in to check out whether the motorbike left with a local garage is legit, as Dennis wants to sell it because it won’t travel with its knackered clutch assembly.
Simple Men pans out like an over-acted student play, but that makes it all the more amusing, especially given the great dialogue such as, early on, from Bill:
- “The first good looking blonde woman i see… I’m going to make her fall in love with me. I’ll do everything right. Be a little aloof at first. Mysterious… seem sort of thoughtful, deep. But possibly a bit dangerous, too…
Flatter her in little ways, but be modest myself. They all fall for that shit. Make her fall hopelessly in love with me. Yep. Mysterious, thoughtful, deep, but modest. Then i’m going to fuck her.”
Overall, it doesn’t quite hang together as well as Amateur but is certainly worth a watch, and I had to piss myself laughing when all the key cast members end up dancing to Sonic Youth’s Kool Thing, however. I’m sure I could find a clip online, but it’s best if you watch it during the film.
The film is presented in 16:9, even though the original theatrical ratio was the slightly less wide 1.66:1 – shame they didn’t pillarbox this slightly to get it exactly spot-on. In 1080p high definition, sadly, the image is quite flickery for much of the film, as well as an element of grain that shouldn’t be there.
Soundwise, this disc only contains a mono soundtrack, as originally made for the film, and it’s fine as it is.
There are only two extras on this disc, but they total longer than those two on the Amateur Blu-ray:
- Upon Reflection: Simple Men (16:15): Hal Hartley is seen talking about the inception for the film and how it followed on from 1990’s Trust, and there’s additional chat from producer Ted Hope, plus cast members Robert John Burke and Martin Donovan.
There’s also other aspects discussed such as hinting at their being scope for improvisation and, of course, that dance…
- Trouble and Desire: An interview with Hal Hartley (39:18): A longer piece with the director talking you through the creative process for his films.
The menu features a small section of the incidental music over and over, there are no subtitles whatsoever which is a ridiculous omission these days, and the chaptering is a woeful 12 over the 105-minute running time. I go by the rule of thumb of one every five minutes, taking into account one each for the opening and closing credits.
Running time: 105 minutes
Date of release: June 10th 2013
Distributor: Artificial Eye
Cat no: ART064BD
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Hal Hartley
Producers: Hal Hartley and Ted Hope
Screenplay: Hal Hartley
Music: Hal Hartley (as Ned Rifle) and Jeffrey Taylor
Bill McCabe: Robert John Burke
Dennis McCabe: Bill Sage
Kate: Karen Sillas
Elina: Elina Löwensohn
Martin: Martin Donovan
Mike: Mark Bailey
Vic: Chris Cooke
Ned Rifle: Jeffrey Howard
Kim: Holly Marie Combs
Jack: Joe Stevens
Sheriff: Damian Young
Mary: Bethany Wright
Frank: James Hansen Prince
Vera: Mary McKenzie
Nun: Vivian Lanko
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.