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"Handsome Harry" a Road Movie About Revisiting Guilt

A fixture of New York City's no-wave scene of the late '70s and early '80s — an era of prolific DIY filmmaking, when everybody seemed to be collaborating with everyone else — Bette Gordon continues her exploration of desire with Handsome Harry. A road-movie ensemble piece interrupted by Fireworks-like flashbacks, HH finds its hero (played by Jamey Sheridan) reconciling with the unpalatable notion that, to paraphrase Oscar Wilde, each man maims the thing he loves. Harry, a well-liked, long-divorced middle-ager capable of only the most awkward interactions with the diner waitress who clearly wants him and the 20-ish son who's driven hundreds of miles to visit him in upstate New York, takes off suddenly for Philadelphia to visit Tom (Steve Buscemi), a dying Navy buddy. "We became men together," Tom reminisces in his hospital bed — rites of passage that torment Harry, who continues to seek out friends from the service to assuage his guilt over a heinous act of betrayal and cruelty. Each visit serves as a set piece for the particular pathologies of white midlife manhood: entitlement, repression, rage, self-pity. Gordon films every encounter — some of which droop under too much hectoring (the script is by first-timer Nicholas T. Proferes) — with a hesitant empathy, maintaining just the right tone before Harry's lushly romantic final reunion. In Gordon's films, eros' capacity to disturb and disrupt is celebrated as its greatest quality.


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