In the coming days I'll try to post a review from each contributor. Here's one from Max.
Chameleon Street (1989) Reviewed by Max
If you know who Wendell B. Harris is, I salute you. According to IMDB, he’s only been in three films, the last being Road Trip. He wrote, directed and stars in Chameleon Street, one of the best true independent films I’ve ever seen. Harris plays William Douglas Street, a young black man growing up in the Midwest. He works for his father’s locksmith business, freezing his ass off in a van and listening to the Sex Pistols on a walkman. For a man with larger than average brains and smaller than average means, he knows there’s gotta be an angle of economic escape. Being a drug pusher is attractive, but ultimately unprofitable, so he attempts to blackmail a Cubs player. Unfortunately his partners in crime published the blackmail letter in the local paper and signed it William D. Street.
With a sudden rush of media attention, he tries to play his way into writing articles for Time magazine (really, he just wants to meet female celebrities). When he’s found out, he impersonates a graduate of Harvard Medical School and becomes a staff surgeon at a local hospital (he gets by on a handy medical manual which he hides in his briefcase—he even performs a hysterectomy!). Of course the consequences of duping a hospital and performing amateur medicine catch up to him with a simple background check, and he’s sent to prison, from which he escapes
All through his “careers” Street gets the same message from his wife every morning: “Make some money.” The financial and emotional burden of having to support yourself is real, and so there’s more than a little bit of sympathy for this con man’s foibles. He is of course a selfish cad who always assumes he’s smarter and more important than those around him (he’s right about 75% of the time). Street’s got a pretty good sense of humor, though, and great taste (or maybe it’s all just from Harris, because I can’t find one solid indicator of the reality of Mr. Street’s existence—which could be meant as a joke on the audience, but nonetheless would add another layer of meaning to the narrative).
Favorite moment—I dunno, it’s a toss up between the weird murder dance around a little girl’s tea set and the super-duper fashionable French/Renaissance costume ball. ****