When Hal Hartley first emerged on the American Independent Film scene with The Unbelievable Truth (1989) it was like nothing else. The fusion of the literate with the plastic, his long takes, the off-beat blocking, and his own signature style soundtracks stood out from the pack, announcing a new and wholly unique voice in American cinema.
When I discuss low-budget and independent filmmaking with my students I assign them an interview with Hartley that was originally published in Sight & Sound to read and they all end up loving him if not his films. When we work with blocking I often screen a scene from The Unbelievable Truth, Trust (1990), and Surviving Desire (1992); one scene apiece. Again, most of the students fall in love with his style. Which is no surprise since his influence can be felt in both Noah Baumbach’s and Wes Anderson’s films.
I saw No Such Thing before I saw The Unbelievable Truth. A buddy lent me his copy of The Unbelievable Truth in the summer of 2011 so I came into Hartley’s early films rather late. I would recommend that anyone interested in making a film on their own should invest some time in studying Hartley’s works.