The Plot Against Harry | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The Plot Against Harry

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Shot in black and white in 1969, but neither completed nor shown until 1989, this delightful, offbeat comedy about a sad-eyed, small-time New York numbers racketeer named Harry Plotnick (Martin Priest) who has just emerged from prison after many years, was written and directed by Michael Roemer, whose only well-known previous feature was the skillful Nothing but a Man (1964), about the experiences of a black couple living in Alabama. Finding that life has passed him by, Harry gamely tries to buy his way into middle-class respectability, even though his wife despises him and he's a total stranger to his kids. In the course of conducting business, he passes through a picaresque succession of locations and noisy events--bar mitzvah, fashion show, dog-training session, and an endless stream of parties--yet the movie's pace is leisurely, the humor quiet and affectionate in striking contrast to the brassy world he moves through. Beautifully shot (by coproducer Robert M. Young, a director in his own right) and cast with a wonderful bunch of unknowns (who include Ben Lang, Maxine Woods, Henry Nemo, Jacques Taylor, Jean Leslie, Ellen Herbert, and Sandra Kazan), this is both a lovely piece of filmmaking and an exquisitely detailed portrait of a milieu and period, sealed as if in a time capsule. (Fine Arts)

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