THE PLOT AGAINST HARRY
MUST END THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 28
Directed by Michael Roemer
Starring Martin Priest, Ben Lang, Maxine Woods
Approx. 81 min. New 35mm print/New 4K restoration.
Deadpan, small-time Kosher Nostra member and ex-con Harry Plotnick (Martin Priest) is just released from prison and trying to regain his lost turf in a neighborhood turned topsy-turvy. After a chance reunion with his ex-wife and grown children, Harry is suddenly immersed in middle-class normality and goes meshugga when he gets into the catering biz with his ex-brother-in-law (Ben Lang). What follows is a world of call girls, bar mitzvahs, lingerie fashion shows, Cuban-Chinese mobsters, subway parties, Mafia barbecues, dog training classes, Congressional hearings, and hotel pajama parties. Shelved by writer/director Roemer in 1969 following a laugh-less preview, THE PLOT AGAINST HARRY emerged two decades later when he overheard a technician performing a video transfer of the film laughing hysterically. On a whim, Roemer made two 35mm prints and sent them to the New York and Toronto Film Festivals (it was a hit with audiences), before releasing theatrically to great acclaim in early 1990 as a bona fide comedy classic.
With support from the Joan S. Constantiner Fund for Jewish and Holocaust Films
A FILM DESK RELEASE
“Roemer’s dyspeptic comedy bares unhealed and unspoken wounds of NY Jewish life… [He] writes dialogue with an ear for offhand cruelties and fractured intimacies; his satirical vision evenhandedly distributes willful struggle and oblivious vanity. A classic of Jewish humor, albeit of a particular sort: its looming forebear is Kafka, but its existential absurdity is coated with calculatedly rancid schmaltz.”
– Richard Brody, The New Yorker
“A time capsule [that] feels like a jolt of fresh air.”
– Roger Ebert
“A JEWEL FOUND IN THE GRIME OF NEW YORK CITY…A FELLINIESQUE COMEDY OF JEWISH DESPAIR.”
– A.S. Hamrah, Screen Slate
“Mirrors a sort of fine comic sensibility that never goes out of fashion. An acutely observed satiric comedy whose deadpan matches that of its perpetually glum, heavy lidded title character.”
– Vincent Canby, The New York Times
“Gives rampant ethnic nuttiness a distinctively wistful vulgarity…At once gritty and ethereal…Although THE PLOT AGAINST HARRY has been compared to John Cassavetes’s work, the director’s sensibility is far closer to Elaine May’s. Roemer’s satire of the Jewish urban middle class has its corollary in May’s THE HEARTBREAK KID, his comic rhythms parallel the droll understatement of the much-aligned ISHTAR, and HARRY’s characters and milieu suggest a “lite” version of May’s MIKEY AND NICKY.”
– J.Hoberman, Premiere
“Delicately observed and surreal.”
– Bilge Ebiri, New York Magazine
“An ode to urban Jewish life and the joy and pain in the ass that is family. Robert Young, an experienced documentary cinematographer, gives the film a vérité feel, capturing the noisy, vernacular comedy in all its exuberant specificity. In moments, he lends the circus surrounding its protagonist a Fellini-esque grace.”
– Chris Shields, Screen Slate
“Neglected masterpiece…should have become an instant classic—of American Jewish cinema, of gangster movies, of film comedy, and of bold creativity on a low budget. Gratifying stories about lost masterpieces and redemptive rediscoveries make it all too easy to ignore the damage that’s done—in this case, to Roemer’s career and those of his actors, to the world of filmmaking, which missed out on the chance to draw inspiration from the path Roemer was blazing, and to two decade’s worth of viewers, who were denied an incisive portrayal of an era and its byways that also propounds a compelling world view."
– Richard Brody, The New Yorker