The Plot Against Harry

ISBN 13: 9780767073530

The Plot Against Harry

 
9780767073530: The Plot Against Harry

An ex-convict Jewish gambler reunites with his family and becomes middle class. Directed by Michael Roemer.

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Review:

An early delight of American independent cinema (before there was American independent cinema, really), The Plot Against Harry is proof that failure is not necessarily the final word. Shot independently in 1969 by the collaborators of Nothing But a Man, writer-director Michael Roemer and photographer/co-producer Robert Young, Harry couldn't find a distributor and was quickly forgotten. In 1989, Roemer took another look at the movie, submitted it to a couple of film festivals, and suddenly found critical acclaim and a respectable release.

In retrospect, it now looks like a cinematic cousin to Philip Roth's Goodbye-Columbus, with its middle-class Jewish milieu and observant humor. Harry (Martin Priest) is a mid-level mobster whose racket has weakened during his stint in prison. Newly out, he tries to piece together the business, or possibly go straight, meanwhile reconnecting with his ex-wife and the two daughters he barely knew. Nothing seems to work--it's almost as though there's a plot against him.

As a curio, Harry is choice. It's easy to see how the movie had trouble in 1969, however; the style suggests an in-the-streets documentary, rather than a culture comedy. (An opening sequence in the jailhouse looks like the beginning of a grim prison exposé.) This bizarre approach actually gives the movie much of its appeal today, however, as does the relentless eccentricity of the supporting cast, many of them non-professionals; Harry's henchman Ben Lang should've had a wonderful career as a good-natured goombah. --Robert Horton

Additional Features:

An excellent 33-minute conversation between two exceptionally well-spoken men, Michael Roemer and Robert Young, gives a thorough account of the film's shooting and its post-production headaches, as well as their other socially committed collaborations. --Robert Horton

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