Handsome Harry (Serbia/USA/Germany; 85 min.)


directed by: Bette Gordon
cast: Jamey Sheridan; Steve Buscemi; Aidan Quinn; John Savage; Mariann Mayberry; Campbell Scott; Karen Young
Handsome Harry
 

Bruce says: "In 1983 Bette Gordon was an underground artist who decided she could make as good a film as the next guy (let’s face it, there were few female filmmakers in 1983.)  The result was the stunning VARIETY which explores the notion of what might happen if a woman, like her male counterpart, became enamored with pornography and intrigued by voyeurism followed by its next dangerous step, stalking.  Made on a shoestring, VARIETY was shot in New York City without permits and sometimes without a film crew.  Shown at the Toronto Film Festival in 1983 released briefly in 1985 VARIETY was a showcase film at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.

"For almost 20 years Gordon has been teaching at Columbia University where she is co-chair of the film department.  And now she has made a new film HANDSOME HARRY which also explores repressed sexuality.  Harry (Jamey Sheridan) is a divorced man in the process of selling his garage to an employee.  He hangs out at the local diner where he flirts with Muriel the waitress (Karen Young) and jokes with his coffee buddies.  His son has come to pay Harry a birthday visit, a son with whom he has marginal rapport.  The telephone rings.  At the other end is dying Navy buddy Thomas Kelley (Steve Buscemi) who begs to see Harry before he dies.  Harry takes off and drives from upstate New York to Philadelphia.  Kelley is obsessed by guilt because of an event that occurred while they were in the Navy.  A group of men brutally beat Kagan (Campbell Scott), one of their buddies, and Kagan’s hand was smashed by a particularly sadistic act.  Since they were all drunk, Kelley thinks he might be the one who dealt the final blow.  He wants Harry to apologize to Kagan. 

"Harry is not convinced that Kelley is correct so he forgoes returning to his son and looks up three other buddies – Gebhardt (Titus Welliver), Porter (Aiden Quinn) and Rheems (John Savage).  Porter has a bad case of megalomania and his neglected wife (Mariann Mayberry) comes on to Harry.  Gebhardt has turned to God in the face of his wife Sarah’s (Anita Hollander) disability.  Rheems is rabidly homophobic in spite of having a gay son.  All of these men are content to keep their Navy past buried.  None can offer Harry the help he needs before he sees Kagan.   Flashbacks to the Navy days after each of these vignettes help put the pieces of the puzzle in place. 

"Returning home, Harry makes an attempt to connect with Muriel.  His son rebukes him and Kagan agrees to meet him.  It is not until Harry and Kagan meet that we come to thoroughly understand Harry’s past and the demons he has been harboring.   Gordon taps into the notions of selective memory and redemption without proselytizing.  The ensemble acting of HANDSOME HARRY is superb.  5 cats

(HANDSOME HARRY screened at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.)"