Director: Hal Hartley

Hal Hartley’s latest tells roughly the same story in three different cities – New York, then Berlin, then Toyko – with different actors and increasingly different inflections. In each, a character considered a flirt faces a dilemma when his/her lover decides to go abroad; in the 90 minutes before the latter’s plane departs, the ‘flirt’ suffers indecision, meets friends, lovers and strangers, and someone, somehow, ends up getting shot in the face…Flirt takes basic story-telling elements and juggles them until they take on substantially different nuances; from story to story, the gender, race, age and sexual proclivities of the characters change; words first spoken in affection become, in another episode, sad, angry, or even unspoken memories; minor characters even begin to discuss the purpose, meaning and success or otherwise of the film we are watching. All of which is consistently ingenious, engrossing and surprising. But what gives it a punch is Hartley’s genuine interest in matters of the heart: what starts out looking like a rather cool intellectual exercise in playful formalism turns out to be a witty, astute and touching study of love, trust and emotional insecurity. Even as Hartley confidently explores new terrain, the fine perfomances, crisp camerawork and characteristically sharp dialogue will surely satisfy his fans. Terrific.

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