koch on film

By, Ed Koch

“Blue Car” (+)
The title of this film refers to the memory that 16-year-old Meg (Agnes Bruckner) has of her father leaving their family.

Meg lives with her harried mother Diane (Margaret Colin) and younger sister Lily (Regan Arnold) who is suffering from anorexia and a need to physically injure herself, which she does in one scene by cutting her foot with scissors. Meg is a talented writer and is encouraged by her English teacher and mentor Auster (David Strathairn) to enter a national poetry competition being held in Florida.

Meg could be compared to the character Oliver in “Oliver Twist.” She suffers every indignity imaginable, and is betrayed in personal relationships time and again. Before the film ends, she has an afternoon sexual relationship with Auster. The high school teacher takes advantage of his position and her vulnerability.

I liked the film but my companions, HS and HG, thought it was a soap opera. As I waited in line to enter the theater, a woman leaving the previous performance said to me, “It is a downer and very complex.” She is absolutely right. Nevertheless, it contains the major ingredients of a good movie: an interesting script, good acting and believable magic.

“The Man Without a Past” (-)
This Finnish film with English subtitles got excellent reviews. Undoubtedly, it is an artistic, cultural success—but it is also a big bore. Since I only recommend films that I enjoyed watching, no matter how brilliant they are to the cognoscente, I cannot recommend this flick.

The plot involves a traveler called “M” (Markku Peltola) who is mugged in the outskirts of Helsinki and wakes up in a hospital suffering from amnesia. He takes up residence in a shantytown and goes regularly to the Salvation Army soup kitchen where he meets and falls in love with a Salvation Army worker Irma (Kati Outinen). The acting is splendid, but because very little happens, the film will put you to sleep. I still bear the self-inflicted pinch marks that kept me awake.

“The Dancer Upstairs” (-)
John Malkovich killed this film with his direction. It had so much going for it, but it ultimately is all for naught.

I saw Malkovich on Charlie Rose’s show discussing this flick and thought he was very pretentious, but I decided to see it, because revolutionary themes are always intriguing to me. Regrettably, Malkovich’s turgid and sometimes incomprehensible plot made for an often boring film.

The movie is based on the book of the same title written by Nicholas Shakespeare. It takes place in a South American Republic dominated by an authoritarian regime not yet totally repressive, fascist or communist. The governmental conflict is similar to the battle between the Peruvian Shining Path terrorist group and former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori. There is even a likeness in a character, albeit remote, to U.S. citizen Lori Berenson who was arrested and imprisoned in Peru for alleged terrorist collaboration. In this film, a young woman and native of the country supports the revolutionary leader Ezequiel/Duran (Abel Folk) with a fervor reminiscent of the Manson women.

Augustin Rejas (Javier Bardem) is a lawyer turned government investigator looking to arrest Ezequiel, the leader of a terrorist organization. He is married to Sylvina (Alexandra Lencastre) and has an adolescent daughter who is taking ballet lessons from Yolanda (Laura Morante) with whom Augustin becomes emotionally involved.

Good aspects of the film are travelogue scenes of rural living with the indigenous Indian population. Augustin is part Indian, and occasionally during the film, he speaks the indigenous language Quechua.

Regrettably, on balance, the time I spent watching this film was wasted. Don’t let it happen to you. Avoid this flick.


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