I am seeing this before I dig into past Hartley. I also watch this because of Ms. Posey. Yes, she is pretty, but her presence interests me more. I think she has this Bill Murray thing, not uncommon to many comedians/actors. Bill Murray exists in two worlds when he is acting: the world of the movie, and the world of comic befuddlement, but coming from the audience’s reaction. He communicates the fact he’s in a film, while he is in the film. It’s smart and fun acting, although today he sleepwalks through films with this same technique like an old sad clown. Ms. Posey exists in both spaces as well, but what she transmits is much more ample than Murray. It has befuddlement, comic timing, but it’s also emotionally supple. Just watch how Christopher Guest has used her. She knows where to place herself in the context of the joke.
The joke here is that Hartley has some commentary on American geopolitics, and for some reason believes it passes through his previous films, Milton, and the French New Wave.
You have to know that only Hartley can create a work like this. He has a whole career behind him of films where our entry relies on our own abstractions of the topics he deals with. It is a kind of experimental cinema where we stand beyond realism, in deliberate artificitality, but swaddled in cinematic intuition. Mostly what it means is that there are no real cinematic anchors. There is a message somewhere but it’s not in the movie. The movie is situations that can be spectacular but presented in an unspectacular way. There is a constant push, and it is of ideas, contained in a framework that is itself an idea about framework (in this case, a spoof on the spy story).
I guess it’s a kind of intellectual filmmaking, and I mean that in the most positive sense of the word.