Magazine article The Nation

The Plot against Harry

Magazine article The Nation

The Plot against Harry

Article excerpt

FILM NOTES.

The Plot Against Harry was filmed in 1968 and rescued from the dustbin of history twenty-one years later, when it premiered at last fall's Toronto and New York Film Festivals. Written and directed by Michael Roemer and photographed by Robert M. Young--the same team that made Nothing But a Man--Harry failed to win release in the 1960s for two main reasons: Its comedy was utterly deadpan and its moral vision utterly equivocal. Now that it has been dug out of the vault, film-feted and put into distribution, it sits in the theater like some cinematic time machine, ready to transport you back to a New York City of go-go bars and bubble hairdos, long black Cadillacs and radical chic. The images, photographed in lustrous black and white, are still mint-fresh; and thanks to Roemer's directorial eye, they incorporate almost as much documentary detail as they do narative incident. As a result, Harry is an astounding and often hilarious spectacle of the late 1960s. Its story concerns a racketeer trapped into respectability by his Jewish family; but its obsession is the way people presented themselves to one another in fashion shows and telethons, lavish weddings and tacky bar mitzvahs, fundraising parties and televised Congressional inquiries.

The subject under investigation is Harry Plotnick, boss of one small corner of the New York numbers racket. Newly released from prison, Harry finds that almost all members of his multi-ethnic gang have deserted him. The old neighborhood has changed; the new people don't want a Jew as their head bookie, and the mob doesn't think highly enough of Harry to help him. …

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