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Simple Men [VHS]

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Simple Men
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Product Details

  • Actors: Robert John Burke, Bill Sage, Martin Donovan, Karen Sillas, Elina Löwensohn
  • Directors: Hal Hartley
  • Writers: Hal Hartley
  • Producers: Hal Hartley, Bruce Weiss, Jerome Brownstein, Ted Hope
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • VHS Release Date: May 16, 1995
  • Run Time: 105 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6303422853
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #759,247 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews


Simple Men opens with small-time hood Bill (Robert Burke from RoboCop 3) asking a bound and blindfolded security guard if he can have the guard's Virgin Mary medallion. "Be good to her and she'll be good to you," says the guard. Immediately after, Bill is double-crossed by his girlfriend and his partner. From there, the plot goes off in a completely different direction: Bill and his younger brother Dennis (William Sage, High Art), a philosophy student, go off in search of their father, a former star shortstop who may have committed a bombing many years ago. Their only clue is a phone number on Long Island; they end up at a cafe run by Kate (Karen Sillas, Female Perversions), which is also the hangout for Elina Löwensohn (Nadja) and Martin Donovan (Hollow Reed, The Opposite of Sex). But plot is never the point in Hal Hartley movies (Trust, Amateur, Henry Fool); it's just a clothesline on which to hang odd, quirky scenes--moments like Donovan and Sage trying to imitate Löwensohn's dance movements to a Sonic Youth song, or a half-drunken conversation about pop music and self-exploitation. Hartley's deliberately stilted dialogue and stylized performances actually play better on video; the movie feels more intimate, making the humor more relaxed and fluid. Hartley is the kind of idiosyncratic filmmaker who provokes love-him-or-hate-him responses, but there's a deep sincerity to his artifice that goes beyond mere posing. Against all commercial wisdom, he's struggling to find his own cinematic poetry. Such an uncommon aspiration is worth checking out. --Bret Fetzer

Customer Reviews

Simple Men is no exception.
G P Padillo
Hal Hartley's ultra clever, purposely stylized, dialogue driven "Simple Men" seems like an exercise in clever wordplay.
I was stunned by Simple Men: simply one of my top ten favorite movies.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By G P Padillo VINE VOICE on June 21, 2005
Format: DVD
Hal Hartley never fails to entertain, never fails to engage my mind and emotions on a parallel level. Simple Men is no exception. The seemingly simple plot - two brothers in search of their missing dad - provides so much room for character growth that I wish there were an entire series of films centered around them.

With a hard-edged view of the world as: "There's no such thing as adventure. There's no such thing as romance. There's only trouble and desire" (actually from a Fritz Lang movie of the 1920's) there's plenty going on to both prove and disprove Hartley's ambivalent theories.

Simple Men also formally introduces us to the absolutely delicious Elena Löwensohn. In one of the coolest and hottest scenes in all of cinema we get to watch her bizarre 50's beatnik-style dance to Sonic Youth's "Kool thing." Then joined by the two lost soul brothers it turns into an unlikely production number.

Many dismiss this film, and Hartley as unwatchable or trivial and miss the point. What is amazing about Hartley is that he takes the seemingly trivial and elevates it to a level of art that, once seen, reflects our lives on every level from brilliance to the inane.

Simple Men is pure cinematic delight.

Hooray for Hartley!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By E. emilfork Soto on February 10, 2004
Format: DVD
A few years ago I was looking for some movie in TV when in wrong move I put one of this channels you never watch cos the quality of the image is bad and the movies are in my spoken languaje (spanish, I prefer with subtitles). I don't remember what scene but I remember the face of Robert John Burke from Robocop III, talking some very clever dialogues. After just a few minutes I couldn't change the channel till the movie ends leaving me absolutely impress.
Just a few weeks later by the same reason I catch "Trust" and from this same moment I became fan of Hal Hartley.
Because after years watching more than one hundred different movies of any style and director, Simple men and the rest of the Hartley's work show me another vision of life and another way to make movies, thinking more in a good and very deep script with a few good actors than a good budget with great special effects.
It reminds me the movies of Terrence Malick, because in the chaos of the existence both directors show the path of the real survivors, not those guys who are born to be heroes, just those one only wanna some moment of peace and true love, that's it's more than all the glory of the universe.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By DPK VINE VOICE on March 13, 2001
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
First thing's first, Hal Hartley's films will probably never be everyone's "cup of tea." That said, he is one of the most gifted film-makers to emerge in the past decade or so. In the same year that yielded such wonderful American movies as "Bob Roberts," "The Player," and "Night on Earth," "Simple Men" stands tall as a wonderful contribution to world cinema.
In an interview, Hartley once said that he disputed people saying he wasn't a traditional fim-maker. He argued that he was a traditional film-maker, but that his tradition was people like Bertolt Brecht and Andy Warhol. Evolving from that (alternative) tradition, Hartley is a master of understatement, both as a writer and a director. Because of this, he is often able to reveal simple truths with more emotional impact than many more superficially passionate films. While some of his subsequent films have been more ambitious (and in some ways even better) than this one, "Simple Men" is the one that sticks with me like no other.
The film is many things: a road movie, a quest, a love story. It begins as a bookish and somewhat naive son's quest to learn the truth about his father (a noted short-stop and political fugitive). He is accompanied by his older brother, who joins his quest for more material reasons. The quest takes them to a place which feels both completely concrete yet somehow divorced from reality. In this place, the younger brother learns a great deal more about life, while the older brother discovers depths of feeling and commitment within himself that he never imagined he had.
Trying to give a literal description of this film's plot would do it an injustice, because that plot is ultimately a means to explore the intriguing characters who make their way through it. Suffice it to say that after watching it, you will be surprised at how moving this film is and how honest it is about the relationships which bind men and women together.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Amittai F. Aviram on January 11, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
This is one brilliant film and, like some other reviewers, I must say that it is my favorite film ever. Contrary to other reviewers, I would not dismiss the plot. The plot of two young men, one an "experienced" criminal and one an "innocent" student, searching for their "heroic" but "outlawed" father, is fundamentally mythic, in a way necessarily ironized by the beautiful paradoxes of the film's characters: the older brother's ultimate innocence in his rawness, the young brother's sophistication in his cool rationality -- perhaps most powerfully, the revelation of the father as disappointingly banal and extremely self-absorbed. (A scene near the end in which he reads aloud from a rebellious manifesto of Count Malatesta and has everyone around him repeat the words in unison brings this out in the film's most keenly satirical moment.) Every single character embodies the simultaneous pain and joy of life in an unusually poignant way -- and, by the way, Karen Sillas's performance as Kate is heartrendingly compelling in this regard.
A feature of Hartley's ingenious conception is the juxtaposition of two sharply opposing genre elements. The dialogue is stylized and beautifully rhythmic, very much in the tradition of modern stage drama -- Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Sam Shepherd, John Guare. But the cinematography -- far from "washed out" as one reviewer says -- is rich, with beautiful compositions, dynamic angles, and gorgeous colors in a poignantly bare East Long Island landscape. Thus the dialogue tends toward abstract and stylized art, the cinematography toward realistic or naturalistic representation. The dialogue is "theatrical," the cinematography ... "cinematic.
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