If you were into American indie cinema in the 1990s, you were into Hal Hartley, the New York City auteur (Long Island, actually) whose deadpan cool rivaled Jim Jarmusch, but with a more quizzical style of dialogue and impeccable alt-rock soundtracks. Yet after 1997’s “Henry Fool,” Hartley seemed to drop off the map.
|Rating||out of 5|
|Opens||Opens Jan. 25, 2014|
The good news is that three of his best films — “Simple Men,” “The Unbelievable Truth” and the unmissable “Amateur” — are seeing a big-screen revival at K’s Cinema in Shinjuku, Tokyo. The even better news is that a new Hartley film, “Meanwhile,” is also screening. It’s a short one, clocking in at under an hour, but Hartley is definitely back on form.
“Meanwhile” is a sharp portrait of what it means to be an artist in contemporary New York. Hartley regular D.J. Mendel plays a jazz drummer named Joe, who’s looking for a roof over his head (after getting the boot from a girlfriend), trying to unfreeze his bank account and hustling about a half-dozen different angles in one day. It’s a sequence of short episodes as Joe encounters friends and strangers on the street, in bars, on the Brooklyn Bridge and in Hartley’s own office. “Meanwhile” is a slight film, but it’s briskly paced and it knows where it’s going, as Joe goes about fixing everyone’s problems but his own.