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The Unbelievable Truth

4.6 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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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

Special Features

  • A conversation with Hal Hartley

Product Details

  • Actors: Adrienne Shelly, Robert John Burke, Chris Cooke, Julia McNeal, Katherine Mayfield
  • Directors: Hal Hartley
  • Writers: Hal Hartley
  • Producers: Hal Hartley, Bruce Weiss, Jerome Brownstein
  • 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 (37 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000059PPA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #190,517 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Unbelievable Truth" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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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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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Don't know how he does it, but the way Hartley gets the actors deliver their lines and the timing of the pauses really makes his films get to the core of the emotion or issue at hand. And usually it's just plain funny. Always appreciate Hartley films for his unique vision.
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Format: Amazon Video Verified Purchase
This movie is one of my favorites. It's absurd, and funny, and sad, and grey. It's the only movie for which I own the official poster - gifted to me by a friend who'd worked at a theater that had been showing it.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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 how these guys got so good so fast! I love Hartley's dry style. Thank god someone out there is making films with a different feel for reality than typical filmmakers aim for. The plot is fun, and the acting is cool, AS Hal Hartley aged he got more sophisticated and definately made better sound tracks than this but I am not sure any other films of his are this fun to watch.
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