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Hal Hartley once outlined his objective as a film-maker as defining the essential - to reduce a narrative to it's core and purge all sundry and non-essential content. If this is indeed his manifesto, then it serves him well on Ambition, a film which achieves more unity and cohesion in it's 15 minute duration than most films achieve in 90.
Based around an artist whose modest ambition is seemingly only to be "good at what I do", the film charts his brief rise and fall with the same unemotional eye. Initially seduced by those who control art and celebrity for his unique identity and voice, he is to be discarded just as quickly.
He later finds himself attacked (quite literally) by two suited thugs who scorn his vision and drive - "I love New York because the most beautiful women in the World live there" - before concluding that he is beyond hope.
Stunning visuals, perfect dialogue and immaculate performances.
This is possibly Hal Hartley's greatest achievement.
A film which manages to perfectly sum up the dilemma encompassed by the
so-called Generation X: a generation that has never had it better, and has
it all for the taking - if only they could figure out just what 'it' is.
Nick (Tim Roth) carries the momentum of this notion, claiming that what he wants "isn't in here, and it isn't out there...", yet he regardless embarks on a voyage to Butte, Montana which is rumoured to be the City of the Future: "I read that a while ago, so the future's probably already there".
Much of the film is concentrated on the aftermath of his departure, and in particular his decision to leave his girlfriend Beth (Bridget Fonda)behind in Arizona. Beth now must reach a similar decision in Nick's absence, finally deciding what 'she' wants as opposed to the wants of those around her (namely Nick). Also involved in this tangle of relationships are Nick's ex-lover and Beth's best friend (Phoebe Cates), and a painter (Eric Stoltz) whose introduction to the situation further complicates Beth's thinking.
The film, like Glengarry Glenn Ross, is based on a stage play and this is evident in the minimum of locations employed and heavy emphasis on dialogue. However, this is really quite satisfying as characters are allowed to express and develop far much more than is customary in other such, so-called 'soul-searching' films.
Stand-out performances from Fonda and Roth, and an intelligent script.