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Henry Fool

3.8 out of 5 stars 70 customer reviews

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(Dec 16, 2003)
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Henry Fool

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Editorial Reviews

From acclaimed director Hal Hartley (Trust, The Unbelievable Truth) comes a strange and fascinating comedy. Simon (James Urbaniak, American Splendor) is a garbage man living a desperate and miserable life until he meets Henry Fool (Thomas Jay Ryan, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), a mysterious writer working on a major piece of literature. Henry convinces Simon to write in a journal and learns that he is a poetic prodigy. When Simon’s work appears on the Internet, he becomes a controversial sensation. As Simon’s career rises and Henry’s falls, Henry turns to Simon for help. Also featuring Parker Posey (Superman Returns), HENRY FOOL is an original and thought-provoking film.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Thomas Jay Ryan, James Urbaniak, Maria Porter, James Saito, Jan Leslie Harding
  • Directors: Hal Hartley
  • Producers: Hal Hartley, Keith Abell
  • Format: AC-3, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: December 16, 2003
  • Run Time: 138 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000E5NQ0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,887 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Henry Fool" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By G P Padillo VINE VOICE on August 5, 2004
Format: DVD
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.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Warning: neither DVD version of this film -- the original 2003 version from Sony, or the 2012 "Choice Collection" on-demand DVD-R -- is a widescreen presentation of the original film, which was in 1.66:1 aspect ratio. THEY ARE BOTH A MATTED (VERTICALLY TRIMMED) VERSION OF THE PAN-AND-SCAN VHS VERSION, WHICH MEANS THEY ARE 60% OF THE ORIGINAL IMAGE. 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. I froze the image of James Urbaniak sitting during the credits sequence on VHS and the new DVD, and toggled between them: in the VHS he fills exactly 2/3 of the screen, vertically, which is clearly the way Hal Hartley framed it. In the DVD, he fills a claustrophobic 86% of the image.

The Sony version correctly identifies the aspect ratio as 1.78:1, which was a tip-off that it's been altered. The new version falsely claims the original 1.66:1 ratio, and the DVD-R "learn more" link asserts that "all products are manufactured from original source materials," which in this case is patently untrue. All they seem to have done is take the existing digital file and excised the giveaway "This film has been reformatted for your television" notice from the VHS tape, which the original Sony DVD actually left in! They haven't gone anywhere near an original negative or positive of the film.

Since the new version is more expensive than the old, I'm guessing that the entire rationale of this re-release (on Amazon's part) was to finally present it properly.
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Format: DVD
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.Read more ›
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