The late Bronx-born character actor Victor Argo, an Abel Ferrara
standby, gives an elegiac walking tour of New York in Lustre.
Playing a newly toothless loan shark, Argo trundles down the gentrified
streets of Manhattan, bemoaning the billboards that dwarf the Howard
Johnson in Times Square, presciently wondering when the legendary
diner—a “stand up guy,” as he calls it—will be sent packing. He thinks
New York is losing its soul along with the cheap milk shakes. His panic
at time’s redecoration is of a piece with the dilapidation of his own
body, one better profiled against the chipped paint and fading signs of
his city of memory. Tired of the degradation, he escapes into the
infinite with visions of angels and demons as he chats with the ghost
of his murdered buddy at Gray’s Papaya. These visions proving too
fleeting, he seeks more mundane miracles, awakening in a dream of his
daughter pirouetting down a hospital hallway—a filmic regeneration
recalling Lee Chang-dong’s Oasis. The film is marred by a
reliance on cheap DV effects, but authenticity strains through in the
performances. The supporting actors are engagingly amateur, and in one
of his final turns Argo is a marvel of aggrieved resignation, mumbling
uselessly against a present that has left him behind.