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The Unbelievable Truth (1989)

Adrienne Shelly , Robert John Burke , Hal Hartley  |  R |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)


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Product Details

  • Actors: Adrienne Shelly, Robert John Burke, Chris Cooke, Julia McNeal, Katherine Mayfield
  • Directors: Hal Hartley
  • Format: Anamorphic, Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Starz / Anchor Bay
  • DVD Release Date: March 13, 2001
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000059PPA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #332,396 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Unbelievable Truth" on IMDb

Special Features

  • A conversation with Hal Hartley

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

The films of Hal Hartley, New York's modern beatnik cinema laureate, are not for everyone. His self-consciously clever ping-pong dialogue sounds like a cross between song lyrics and Samuel Beckett, while his deadpan direction gives a wry cast to it all. It's romantic comedy skewed through a thoroughly modern perspective, and it sprung fully formed in his debut feature. Gloomy redheaded pixie Adrienne Shelly, a neurotic high school student fixated on doomsday scenarios, falls for the tall, dark, and mysterious Robert Burke, a black-clad, philosophy-spouting mechanic who is constantly mistaken for a priest and rumored to be a convicted murderer.

An enigmatic, intellectually playful farce played with ironic understatement, Hartley's austere film was shot on the cheap with a handsome, restrained style and directed with an approach straddling verbal slapstick and modernist irony. Shelly mixes the goofy, obsessive distractions of a screwball heroine with smarts, determination, and hardball negotiating skills, while Burke's quiet calm and confidence radiates warmth and sincerity even while playing the loner. Hartley explores the line between truth and rumor, and he takes satirical swipes at the culture of cash and contracts--yet for all his irony he remains an optimist. For all its hip '90s attitude, the unbelievable truth is that Hartley is a romantic at heart. --Sean Axmaker

Review

When Hal Hartley s feature debut The Unbelievable Truth was released in 1990, it proved a minor revelation. For a generation of college-aged young people raised on John Hughes movies Generation X, basically Hartley immediately became the new arbiter of cool, with Adrienne Shelly as his alternate-universe Molly Ringwald, an eccentric object of desire whose motives were tantalizingly mysterious... The Unbelievable Truth deconstructs a classic story of teenage rebellion, with Burke cast as the dangerous James Dean type, and Shelly as the girl whose attraction to him arises from a general impulse to defy what s expected of her. For his part, Burke is amusingly honest about his crimes he admits to killing a man after trying to apologize for killing the man s daughter two years earlier but like all the characters in the film, his first impression isn t the same as the last... The Unbelievable Truth tapped into a mood of disaffection that was creeping through the culture. Watching it 20 years later feels like time travel. --The Onion AV Club

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite Hartley Film March 17, 2004
Format:DVD
If you like Trust and Simple Men then you'll love this film. Personally I love all of Hartley's works, but to me these three films just go so well together. They're all earlier works and in these films you witness an incredibley inspired director do more with a low budget film than most high paid directors could ever dream of doing. I'd also like to say that if you've never seen a Hal Hartley film then this is probably the best point to start out at.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars RIP Adrienne Shelly November 10, 2006
Format:DVD
I was saddened to hear of the tragic and senseless passing of the beautiful actress Adrienne Shelly. Nobody can watch Hal Hartley's "The Unbelievable Truth" and not be struck by how talented and engaging Shelly comes across onscreen. At the time of the film's release it seemed as if she was a star in the making. However, she seemed more content to stick with modest indie films and sporadic appearances in acclaimed TV shows rather than become a fixture in vapid Hollywood product that would have increased her exposure. Eventually she moved behind the lens for what was shaping up to be a very interesting directorial career. Sadly, we will no longer be able to witness her growth as an artist, but as a small consolation we still have films like "The Unbelievable Truth" and "Trust" to remind us of her once luminous presence.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ...at last, a Hal Hartley feature film on DVD! February 28, 2001
By A Customer
Format:DVD
When I heard about a year ago that Hal Hartley's "The Unbelievable Truth" is going to be out on DVD in 2001, I feared some low quality production - but this release should prove worthy for this masterpiece. The picture will be 1.85:1 anamorphic and hopefully the image quality is going to be excellent considering Anchor Bay's good reputation... Having been the directorial feature film debut for acclaimed director Hal Hartley, the film does not long for any big extras to be on the disc - an audio commentary would have been illusory - but we do get an interview with Hal, and the theatrical trailer of course. This is definitely a disc to get for all Hal Hartley fans, and the only thing that could make me even happier would be more DVD releases of his movies: Trust, Simple Men, Amateur, Flirt, his short films, etc... I'm desperately waiting!!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars rereleased at last. June 10, 2002
Format:DVD
As in The Book of Life, Hartley exaggerates the limitations he's given so that they seem like a style. And, they are. Burke isn't the block of wood he seemed to be the first time I saw this, and Adrian Shelley crawls under your skin and lays eggs that hatch days, weeks, and even months later. And the script? Hard to do it justice, but I will say that this is one for repeated viewings. Don't rent it, buy it! You won't be sorry.
Also available on VHS again. Finally.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars rereleased at last. March 13, 2001
Format:VHS Tape
As in The Book of Life, Hartley exaggerates the limitations he's given so that they seem like a style. And, they are. Burke isn't the block of wood he seemed to be the first time I saw this, and Adrian Shelley crawls under your skin and lays eggs that hatch days, weeks, and even months later. And the script? Hard to do it justice, but I will say that this is one for repeated viewings. Don't rent it, buy it! You won't be sorry.
Also on DVD. At last.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable Fun January 5, 2004
Format:DVD
Fraught with over obvious symbolism, Hartley's early feature is nonetheless a joy to watch. Hal here shows us his uncanny ability to cast his characters perfectly came early in his career.
Adrienne Shelley is a near perfect foil to herself, equal parts annoying teen burgeoning in her sexuality (though using sex for several years); obsessed with doom and inspired by idealism gone wrong she is deceptively - and simultaneously - complex and simple. Her Audrey inspires so many levels of symbolism it is almost embarrassingly rich (e.g., her modeling career beginning with photos of her foot - culminating her doing nude (but unseen) work; Manhattan move; Europe trip; her stealing, then sleeping with the mechanics wrench, etc.)
As Josh, Robert Burke gives an absolutely masterful performance. A reformed prisoner/penitent he returns to his home town to face down past demons, accept his lot and begin a new life. Dressed in black, and repeatedly mistaken for a priest, he corrects everyone ("I'm a mechanic"), yet the symbolism is rich: he abstains from alcohol, he practices celibacy (is, in fact a virgin), and seemingly has taken on vows of poverty, and humility as well. The humility seems hardest to swallow seeming, at times, almost false, a pretense. Yet, as we learn more of Josh we see genuineness in his modesty, that his humility is indeed earnest and believable. What seems ironic is the character is fairly forthright in his simplicity, yet so richly drawn it becomes the viewer who wants to make him out as more than what he actually is. A fascinatingly written character, perfectly played.
The scene between Josh and Jane (a wonderful, young Edie Falco . . . "You need a woman not a girl") is hilarious . . . real.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Favorite of all time May 30, 1999
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
This is one of the silliest, entertaining, and delightful films I know of. I worked in an art theater for a while, watching it over and over during my shifts and I still can't wait to share it with people who haven't seen it. It is a very fun film to sit through, even after you know all the lines.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great movie, sub-par blu ray.
Love the movie - but the quality is no "blu-ray". It's more like a clean VHS Copy than a true hi-def blu-ray movie. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Steve K
2.0 out of 5 stars Not the best Hal Hartley.
I got sucked in by the reviews, and having seen some other Hartley movies, I had high hopes. I don't know how many of the lines I winched at, but the cliches were flying fast, some... Read more
Published 3 months ago by jeffreycc
5.0 out of 5 stars Love Story That Was Smash Hit at Sundance
This film was made in 1989. It was compared to Woody Allen's work at the time because it was quirky, funny, profound and filled with zingy one liners throughout. Read more
Published 4 months ago by carol irvin
5.0 out of 5 stars Hal Hartley's first (and best?) feature film.
This is a great first film! I would put it up there with Spike Lee's "She's Gotta Have it" and Jim Jarmusch's "Stanger Than Paradise"
I am just kind of stunned... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Steven R. Severance
5.0 out of 5 stars Great cult classic
Have enjoyed this since it first came out. Fun for a group who have seen it. Like Rocky cult classic.
Published 10 months ago by Jimmer
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest Movie Ever
Wow, I was so glad I ordered this treasure to have forever. It was quickly delivered, at a wonderful price, and a perfect product.
Published 16 months ago by Maddie Swenson
5.0 out of 5 stars Building a Hal Hartley catalogue.
As a huge fan of "Trust", I decided to give another Hal Hartley film a chance. This film was excellent, philosophical, and in considerably good condition for a used disc.
Published 16 months ago by Ally K
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Hal Hartley's early masterpieces
This is Hal Hartley's first film, shot on a shoestring budget, but with incredible success. If you are familiar with Hartley's films, they involve clever dialogue, circular... Read more
Published 17 months ago by J. Collins
5.0 out of 5 stars A small, rough, sparkling diamond
This one is less underrated than just plain unknown. It was the first film for both Hal Hartley and Adrienne Shelly (described by the Onion's A/V Club as "the thinking person's... Read more
Published 17 months ago by OgreVI
4.0 out of 5 stars I love Hal Hartley movies
That nailed it. You have to don't you?. I just really get it when it comes to Hal Hartley. If you don't, you probably won't be reading this. This is not his best film. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Garry Feeney
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