Who is Harry Kellerman?
Ulu Grosbard‘s Who is Harry Kellerman and Why is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? (1971), is a “psychological” comedy about a very successful songwriter and his frequent episodes of delusional paranoia. The main character’s mental illness should not be viewed as a comedy, but a visual descent into his many mood swings and complex hallucinations. Sometimes the scenes where he “imagines things” things present so fast. So do not blink as not to miss it. However, these moments are necessary to the severity of his mental condition. Let’s embark on an emotional journey through the mind of an artist, and a man lost in his world.
George Soloway (Dustin Hoffman) is a songwriter at the apex of his career, creating numerous hits and bringing in plenty of money. All of his relationships with others have failed and continue to collapse around him due to his depression and delusional paranoia. A mysterious man who goes by the name of Harry Kellerman and not even his therapist Dr. Moses (Jack Warden) can help him. The appearance of an actress who has problems of her own, Allison Pensmore (Barbara Harris) encourages George to try a thing called love one last time.
With a loud band playing in, introducing the viewer to George’s illusions, it is a little confusing to understand what is going on at first. Everything quickly comes together as the clues surface as to his condition. A sympathetic character with problems surfacing in his life, George could be considered beautifully tragic. The Allison character sadly only appears near the end of the film and has one scene, but Harris’ performance is gripping as she opens up to George about her issues and difficulties in life. With a movie like this, the ending is not a happy one and can even be considered surprisingly dark for a film made in the early 70s.
Mute colors, whether it’s the character wardrobe or physical surroundings, help to set the mood and George’s struggle. Who is Harry Kellerman? is a reflective film that leads one to think about the effects of mental illness on a person. Despite his immense success, George feels his life is not fulfilling due to the absence of love; someone caring for him and perhaps someone who can understand him. Perhaps someone like Allison.
An obscure film, and however, a sad, yet engaging one.
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