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In fact, in key scenes of both Reservoir Dogs and Simple Men, the characters discuss Madonna, as if each director was indebted to the cult and power of the original lady medusa of '80s dance pop.Deconstructed in the hands of Hartley, Madonna becomes a trope that characters imagine to explore art, commerce, feminism, and subversion.His films felt like textual meld of Anton Chekhov, Kate Chopin, and Raymond Carver.He was not embarrassed to exude a theater of ideas, in which characters babble lines from Dostoyevsky without flinching or sounding entirely ironic.Perhaps he is part of a loose knit triumvirate, including Todd Haynes and Gregg Araki, whose films may be too idiosyncratic to appeal to the You Tube generation hordes, who look for quick, even millisecond kicks in the Internet dream machine.In the early-'90s, I penned a letter to the editors of The Independent, a close-to-the-ground film magazine.This urge links back to one of Hartley’s film professors at SUNY, who admonished students to “speak to all time”, which Hartley's 90s films do evoke, nearly 20 years later.

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A newer generation of upstarts has also moved quickly from outsider status to inside gold, like Batman director Christopher Nolan, while others like Darren Aronofsky have remained stubbornly entrenched in art film mode, though with fairly wide appeal. His appeal is often hard to register and hard to define.Like Chekhov, there is despair and futility in Hartley's films, but also lyricism in the middle of drudgery.Oddly, as Hartley admits in interviews that form the second half of Berrettini’s book, the queer-punk films of Arakki helped shape his own narration and storytelling, but they are missing from the overall analysis offered by the author, who tends to focus on deeper cinematic allusions to Brecht, whose cinema of alienation may inform the pace, wordplay, and even the mise en scene of Hartley films.That sense of impending temporality -- ash burning away at thin paper -- is figuratively mirrored by the grenade placed inside an electronics manufacturer plant by an alienated young man, Matthew Slaughter (ah, pun), in the film’s climax.Time is not on the side of the angst-ridden young protagonist.

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