Monday, Nov. 29, 2010

Harrison Montgomery

Martin Landau’s Latest Indie

By David Luhrssen
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Starting with his Bela Lugosi role in Ed Wood, Martin Landau has been turning up in interesting non-Hollywood films. In the gradually engrossing Harrison Montgomery (out on DVD), he plays the title character—an old eccentric limping around his rooms in a rotting San Francisco apartment house overlooking a lurid street where the homeless collect change in cracked Styrofoam cups and drug dealers peddle their wares.

Lonely Harrison is not the protagonist of this film by director Daniel Davila, but wanders through the drama as disinterested observer and dues-ex-machina. The story focuses instead on Ricardo (Octavio Gomez Berrios), a talented young artist who sells pot for a living. He wants to “phase out” of the trade, but owes money to a brutal and increasingly impatient dealer. Almost caught by the thug, Ricardo is saved by a flower pot tossed from above onto the dealer’s head by a 13-year old neighbor, Lattie (Krista Ott), a girl in need of a friend. Her mother, also an artist, is shacked up with an abusive jerk; Lattie presses herself onto the reluctant Ricardo, who feels he has enough troubles of his own.

Although Ricardo does bad things from desperation, we easily sympathize with his creative impulses. Line drawing animation sequences illustrate the sketches he makes of people he encounters, and the stories he invents for them. All the while, Landau’s eccentric works out the numerological patterns he sees everywhere while keeping a big secret from his neighbors. He’s a bit like the professor he played in Darren Aronofky’s debut, Pi, but gone to seed.

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