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‘Meanwhile’

by Giovanni Fazio

Special To The Japan Times

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.

Meanwhile
Rating
Director Hal Hertley
Language English

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.