Guy S. (guysmiliey) from WEST HAVEN, UT Reviewed on 8/29/2010...
This was a very disconnected movie. I like to be entertained by movies not have my mind twisted by this kind of nonsense.
Film is Briiliant, DVD an Abortion
Eric M. Van | Watertown, MA USA | 01/23/2007
(1 out of 5 stars)
"Warning: this is not a widescreen presentation of the original film, which was in 1.66:1 aspect ratio. IT IS A MATTED (VERTICALLY TRIMMED) VERSION OF THE PAN-AND-SCAN VHS VERSION, WHICH MEANS IT'S 60% OF THE ORIGINAL IMAGE. (The reported 1.78:1 aspect ratio on the DVD box is correct, even the claim that it's anamorphic widescreen is correct: it's just that the image you're seeing was generated by taking the "reformatted for your TV" VHS version, which chopped off the sides of the original theatrical image, and *further chopping* it to fit the widescreen format by eliminating the top and bottom of the VHS image. This is a common practice for widescreen movie presentations on HDTV, but it's always inexcusable). It's unwatchable even if you only know the movie from the VHS pan-and-scan version (which was 80% of the film). And the transfer is poor: it looks worse on my TV than the VHS tape I rented a few years ago.
What an incredible letdown, because the film is sheer genius."
Comic Epic with Heart, Soul and Bruises
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 08/05/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hartley's Masterpiece: An epic, dark comedy with heart and soul and bruises.
If Hal Hartley were never to make another film, he could easily go down as having created a genuine American Masterpiece with "Henry Fool." Hartley takes this material and stamps it with heart and soul and distance. It's like staring at a palette of beautiful colors - then stepping back to realize it's a bruise. Henry is never less than this astonishing.
As Henry,Thomas Jay Ryan gives what is easily the best film debut I've seen in many years. None of the wimpy whispery-voiced drivel that passes for acting these days (from even some of our best screen actors) his performance practically pops off of the screen like a fart at a funeral. The rest of the cast - James Urbaniak, Parker Posey, Maria Porter, Kevin Corrigan, et al. - are on the same inspired level, but it's obvious why the film is named after Henry. I cannot wait to see this man in more.
Obviously allegorical, "Henry Fool" fairly teems with its laundry list of symbolism both quaint and profound, easy and impossible. I found my cheeks hurting from the smile stretching across my face for much of the film. Other moments had my eyes welling with tears at the beauty - and pain - these oh, so deceptively simple lives toil through.
This is not, obviously, a film for all audiences, there is something of the fairy tale here and while suspension of disbelief is required, it is also its own reward. Actually the characters, though larger than life, are so evenly and wondrously drawn as to become recognizable to all of us as ourselves or others in our own lives. Here we weigh out the seemingly unfair advantages we perceive "others" has having, the pronouncements of self-worth and desire for acceptance and understanding.
Hartley's dialogue is equal to the visual aspects of his film: almost stagey (in the good sense), but with a direct honesty that many, unfortunately, will find offputting. His cast delivers these perfectly placed pronouncements with all the gravitas demanded of the situation - and sound natural doing so. It's a beautiful film to listen to.
Aside from the brilliant storytelling, "Henry" is also beautiful to look at. Hartley's cameramen lens a Queenscape most unusual - one never quite feels he knows where it's taking place, despite obvious "Queens" clues. Every frame - from Henry's powerfully bizarre arrival to the last triumphant (and gloriously ambiguous) cell is a pleasure, a joy to watch.
At its conclusion all I could say was "this was the best movie I've ever seen." Upon reflection, I realize it probably isn't, but at that moment (and each ensuing viewing) I recapture that same, precise feeling. That's what I want in a movie and Henry delivers every time. "
An Overlooked Masterpiece
Eric M. Van | 08/19/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's a shame that "Henry Fool" remains relatively overlooked and underrated. In large part because it's such a departure from his earlier films, Hal Hartley purists couldn't stomach the epic scale and thematic shift of the film, and audiences who would likely appreciate the movie never even saw it. In my opinion though, Henry Fool is a true masterpiece of American cinema and one of the best films of the 1990s. If you look at films like "Trust", "Simple Men" and "Amateur" as early, developmental works in Hal Hartley's maturation as a filmmaker, and then see "Flirt" as his attempt to identify himself more as a "director" than a "writer", then "Henry Fool" is the fruit of that labor - not only is it precisely, minimalistically and efficiently directed, but it's far and away his best writing yet. His favorite themes are expanded and blown up within a mythic frame, and his casting here of stage actors (especially the hefty presence of Thomas Jay Ryan) separates the film from Hartley's earlier work. However, it retains the philosophical tone, the inner musings of character, and the precision of their actions. This time, however, Hartley accomplishes this by expanding the frame with which he grapples with friendship, family, ambition, achievement and betrayal, and ends up with a shattering parable about who we choose to be in our lives. The film is about greatness, and thanks to Hartley's fearlessness in envisioning conceptions of greatness, it is, itself, great."
An absolutely brilliant, mesmerizing film
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 10/15/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"One tries not to throw the word brilliant around too often, as doing so robs the word of any meaning, so I am quite sincere when I bestow the word brilliant on this remarkable film - after all, what is artistic brilliance if not the ability to call forth beauty from the midst of ugliness? This story takes place against a depressing backdrop of poverty, desperation, and dysfunction. Simon Grim (James Urbaniak) works as a garbage man, endures physical attacks on the streets, and comes home each night to a thoroughly dysfunctional family. His mother is obviously depressed and, at times, nonresponsive, while his sister Faye (Parker Posey) is irresponsible and only interested in fulfilling her own sexual needs as often as possible. Simon himself seems anti-social if not mentally challenged. Then a stranger named Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan) shows up and changes everything. He has a magnetic personality, albeit one that pushes some people away while drawing others in, and he befriends Simon. Beaming literary pretentiousness, Henry goes on and on about his personal memoirs (or confessions), which he assures Simon will revolutionize the world and society when they are completed and published. When Simon begins following Henry's lead, he produces a new kind of poetry, one which Henry hails as cutting-edge and revolutionary. While his mother and sister ridicule him, Simon is encouraged by Henry to keep writing, rightly pointing to some amazing changes that occur in individuals who read a sampling of his work. Critics initially hail his great poem as poorly written and pornographic (the ultimate put-down), yet Simon perseveres through doubt, tragedy, and controversy, eventually meeting with great success - which changes the lives of these characters irrevocably.
In many ways, this film really is all about Henry Fool himself. He's a mystery for much of this film, a strange external force that shows up out of nowhere and changes the lives of those around him. He is an exceptional fellow - but not necessarily what he appears. As the film progresses, we learn more and more about his troubled past and witness his emotional decline in both the present and the future. His darkest secrets and weaknesses are revealed, he becomes more and more dependent on alcohol and cigarettes, and the mask covering the ugliness of his life begins to slip. Even at his worst, though, he is thoroughly human and morbidly fascinating (and something of a mirror to the souls of many of us, if we're honest enough to admit it), especially at the end when the story has basically come full circle.
There is no character like Henry Fool, and Jay Henry Thomas is absolutely amazing in the role. Great performances abound in this film, while Hal Hartley's direction is impeccable. I don't know what to call the world Hartley has created in this film: it's hyper-surreal yet completely realistic at the same time. It deals with an amazing range of issues head on; oftentimes shockingly direct yet always poignant and surprisingly deep. As others have said, this is not a film that could ever have been borne of a major studio; only an independent filmmaker can take the kind of chances that Hartley takes here, or take such a seemingly simple idea and imbue it with such depth, emotional resonance, and integrity. Henry Fool is nothing less than a stellar, bloody brilliant film."
The Thin Line Between Artists and Fakes
Henry Chinaski | Los Angeles, CA United States | 12/30/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Awesome.This is one of my top-five favorite films of all time. I own this on VHS and I will buy the DVD as well.It's understandable that some intelligent, creative people may dislike this film. The movie demonstrates how one can be brilliant, skilled and dedicated (Henry), but ultimately unable to deliver. Henry's grasp of language and apparent intellectual depth are so engaging, we are fooled into believing his own claims to greatness. In a world crawling with self-proclaimed writers, artists and poets, it's a painful truth that talent and desire often do not lead to success.But all of this is really just a plot vehicle for the overriding themes of the movie.In the end, this is a film about friendship, loyalty, pride and family. And it's beautifully done.I've watched it several times and I'll admit that it drags a bit in places, but I still love it."