The Unbelievable Truth on Blu-ray – The DVDfever Review – Hal Hartley

The Unbelievable Truth

Josh’s (Robert Burke) hitch-hike at the start of The Unbelievable Truth comes to an abrupt halt when he tells his new passengers that he’s just been released from prison, which is rather the sort of thing you’d keep to yourself. Why was he in? That’s the source of much debate as the film goes on.

Meanwhile, daydreamer Audry (the wonderful Adrienne Shelley, here in her first feature-length role) is a young student who thinks the end of the world is imminent, yet is applying for Harvard. She has a boyfriend, Emmet (Gary Sauer) who doesn’t listen to her.

As in 1992’s Simple Men, director Hal Hartley features mechanics Vic (Chris Cooke) and Mike (Mark Bailey). Vic is Audry’s father and Mike wants to marry diner waitress Pearl (Julia McNeal), who Josh comes across as he drifts into town, and who may have something to do for the reason he went to jail. However, I like the concept of having the same characters turn up in different movies – Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith also do this – and it feels like it gives the director’s body of work some additional depth.

I only saw Simple Men recently for the first time, while I had seen this one when I was in University back in the early ’90s, but it’s been a long time so I can’t remember everything.


In discussing the minutae of life, as always with Hal Hartley films, he shows his talent with dialogue, such as an exchange between Audry and her now ex-boyfriend:

    Audry: “Emmet, you look terrible.”
    Emmet: “I tell you, Audry, I’m a wreck…. You look really nice in that dress.”
    Audry: “I’m sorry.”
    Emmet: “Oh, I’m gonna kill myself.”
    Audry: “Oh, Emmet, don’t be maudlin.”
    Emmet: “Then I’ll kill somebody else!”

As well as the never ending “I know what you need…” scene between Josh and waitress Jane.

Filmed in 11 days, Hal Hartley’s Unbelievable Truth is another entertaining cinematic diversion from life and well worth the time spent. Of course, this one serves to remind us how Adrienne Shelley was taken from us at a mere age of 40 when she was murdered by 19-year-old Ecuadorian illegal immigrant Diego Pillco.


The film is presented in 16:9. IMDB quotes the similar 1.85:1, so this is as near enough as makes no difference. Either way, in 1080p high definition, the image is mostly crisp and sharp, although, as with his other recent Blu-ray premieres – Simple Men and Amateur – there’s an element of grain that shouldn’t be there.

Soundwise, this disc only contains a stereo soundtrack, as originally made for the film, and it’s fine as it is but doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary.

While it’s great to see Hal Hartley’s films on Blu-ray, it’s a shame the extras are few and far between, with only one on this disc: Years Later: The Unbelievable Truth (and its consequences) (16:56), with chat from Hal Hartley, Adrienne Shelley, Robert Burke, plus others.

There’s also Martin Donovan, Thomas Jay Ryan, Jeff Goldblum and Parker Posey, even though none of them are in this film, but then it’s not looking exclusively at this one but also other works from the director.

It’s a nice touch that this extra, which was put together in 2010, albeit with a lot of the interviews having been recorded in 2005, is dedicated to Adrienne Shelley.

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 90-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.



Detailed specs:

Running time: 90 minutes
Year: 1989
Date of release: May 27th 2013
Distributor: Artificial Eye
Chapters: 12
Cat no: ART063BD
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS 2.0 (Dolby Stereo)
Languages: English
Subtitles: None
Widescreen: 1.78:1
Disc Format: BD50

Director: Hal Hartley
Producers: Hal Hartley and Bruce Weiss
Screenplay: Hal Hartley
Music: Jim Coleman

Audry: Adrienne Shelly
Josh: Robert Burke
Vic Hugo: Chris Cooke
Pearl: Julia McNeal
Liz Hugo: Katherine Mayfield
Emmet: Gary Sauer
Mike: Mark Bailey
Todd Whitbread: David Healy
Otis: Driver – Bum: Matt Malloy
Jane – The Waitress: Edie Falco
Bill: Paul Schultze