Those of you who were not among the meager handful of readers to click through our post yesterday about this mystifying Josh Hartnett short film for the New York Times missed a truly incredible answer to our question: What the hell is this all about? Commenter VirusWithShoes responded with a disquisition that reviews the film— and the nature of life—at a level of detail that is astounding, and absurd. The fact that someone who is (presumably?) working at another job during the day had time to write this is amazing. And scary. Reprinted below for your pleasure, the entire cinematic comment.
This short decimates perceived conceptions about what it is to be alive in a modern landscape.
The establishing shot transports us in mid-action, We never see the entire location - only the soulless passing traffic, which echoes and translates our post-millennial intellectual uncertainties through powerful use of slush as a cinematic shorthand for the passage of time we all feel, yet rarely express. The setting of Utah in modern day evokes Kubrik at his Hitchcockian best. As the character of "Josh" approaches the hotel, we hear his positive affirmation of "Yep, okay", and instantly derive his situation and intentions in a heart-beat. When "Josh" enters the hotel reception, a bell rings - what can this mean? Some have spoken of the bell representing the fate of modern America - views range on the bell tolling for the war dead, or marking the action of the door opening inwards as a visual metaphor relating to our latent need for a safe place in a time of uncertainty. "Josh" is obviously cold, and he expresses that in small gestures - hand-warming through blowing on them is a throwback to early John Ford, and here "Josh" utilises the unspoken language of mime to great effect. For a while, we actually feel his core temperature, and his all-too-human need for warmth, and perhaps, suitable atire for Winter.
"Josh" approaches the desk, and after gunning himself for the inevitable question, asks for "Julie". The alliterative qualities speaks volumes about their past relationship, and foretell of even more to come. The man behind the desk, baseball cap lowered, intent on writing something (is it a crossword? his tax-return? a ransom demand? we're never told) barely looks up to see "Josh". His cold manner mirrors the weather outside, but "Josh" is persistent, and asks repeatedly for "Julie". The verbal too-and-fro between these main characters points to more than what is said - it seems actions speak louder to both the participants here, and one instantly recalls Jacques Tati at his sinister best. In the middle of the main dialogue, we get a sudden close-up of the pen writing - sombre and eloquent in it's apparent readiness to spill ink onto paper, we are moved to childhood or adolescence, when we too wrote things down onto whatever was laying around at the time while ignoring others. The man behind the desk (who has no given name - is this a reference to Tournier?) finally relents, and calls - using a telephone - for "Julie". We don't hear the other half of the conversation, but we are still mesmerised by "Josh" trying to keep the blood flowing to his fingertips. The man behind the desk returns after the call, and tells "Josh" that "Julie" will be arriving forthwith. He intimates a genuine, though latent empathy towards "Josh" by inviting him to sit for a while until "Julie" arrives. "Josh" partakes of the offer, and sits, again warming his hands and peering out into the cold sunlight of the outside. The short ends as he waits, and we ask ourselves - did "Julie" finally arrive? Or did "Julie" actually exist, or was the call taken by a Mexican auto-shop worker with a high-pitched voice? What was the man behind the desk writing? Was there even ink in the pen? Or could he have been using a mechanical pencil, and if so, was it because he was unsure of himself, and was worried about making a mistake? Or will "Julie" finally arrive for "Josh", and bring him gloves for his eternally cold hands, and are his hands a metaphor for what happened earlier in their relationship? We are left hanging in wonderment at the possibilities, but with an over-riding fear that "Julie" may never arrive, and that "Josh's" predicament could become like that of a modern-day Estragon, waiting for someone who will never appear, or perhaps, never existed in the first place.