Friday, February 14, 2014

Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me (1971, Ulu Grosbard)

Unfortunately, a mostly terrible film with an equally terrible title, I'd wanted to see this initial film collaboration between Ulu Grosbard and Dustin Hoffman for years.  I was finally able to scratch this itch with the surprising DVD release of the film by CBS (by way of Paramount Home Media). Hoffman's folk music hero (a la Dylan) Georgie Soloway is just about his least convincing screen performance.  Where Grosbard and Hoffman effectively combined their talents years later on Straight Time, transforming Hoffman into hardened criminal Max Dembo, they fail spectacularly with Harry Kellerman.  The movie mostly takes place in the frazzled mind of suicidal Georgie, as he encounters family, friends, employees, and his mostly useless Austrian shrink (Jack Warden) and employs some arty, non-linear editing techniques, which will be familiar to students of both New Waves, European and American.  It is, of course, not entirely clear which meetings are actually occurring and which occur only in Georgie's head.  

The lone bright spots are the early '70s footage of New York City, which includes early morning aerial footage of the skyline, with the World Trade Center under construction (in the film, we see 1 tower partially constructed, with no sign of the other), and Barbara Harris' Oscar-nominated role, which amounts to 2 scenes.

The goofy DVD cover, which appears to be trying to evoke Napolean Dynamite's marketing campaign, includes an image that does not appear in the film.  I initially thought it was a photoshop job, but then considered that it might have come from a publicity still.  Sure enough...

Now that CBS and Paramount have released Harry Kellerman, The April Fools, and The War Between Men and Women, please, please give us The Challenge and Darker Than Amber, both titles in the CBS library, which remain unavailable on DVD in any region.

In another sign of our increasing prudishness when it comes to all things sex, the film which features a couple scenes of brief nudity, has been re-rated for the new DVD from GP (pre-cursor to PG) to R.

A final note: my mother met and spoke with Rose Gregorio (Mrs. Ulu Grosbard) at the hair salon a few months ago.  Rose told her a great anecdote about The Swimmer (which the actress appears in) after Mom related to her that I was a big fan of that film.  Here, she appears in a few scenes as the former Mrs. Kellerman.  Rose was quite good in Frank Perry's Dummy, which I wrote about earlier.

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