Volume 16 • Issue 32 | January 9 - 15, 2004


Koch on Film

Prisoner of Paradise (+)
This film should be seen by everyone interested in the Holocaust. Regrettably, the incidents in the 30s of physical attacks upon Jews in Germany by the Nazis are currently being repeated throughout Europe. The Chief Rabbi of France recently urged Jewish schoolchildren to wear baseball caps instead of yarmulkes to avoid being assaulted.

The documentary depicts the adult life of Kurt Gerron, a movie star in Germany in the 1930s, who, became an acclaimed director just as the Nazis were ascending to power. The film is made up of original film clips with some footage reenacted. It shows Berlin in its heyday when Gerron became a cabaret artist with a voice that went exceedingly well with Bertolt Brecht musicals like “Three Penny Opera.” When the Nazis came to power, Jews were forbidden to work. Then, ten or so years later the transports to concentration camps like Auschwitz began.

To calm foreign distress over the disappearance of Jews, the Nazis created Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, an old army barracks and fort. Thousands of Jews wearing their stars were brought to the site and the International Red Cross was invited to view them smiling and enjoying themselves at restaurants and in cabarets. It was, of course, a false picture manufactured by Goebbels and Himmler. Gerron was offered a life in Theresienstadt, as opposed to transport to the east if he would direct a movie to be shown to all of Europe depicting the generosity of the Nazis. He did. When the movie was completed, he was transported east to Auschwitz and immediately killed upon arrival.

This is a powerful film, even though it does not contain one scene of physical brutality or murder. I urge you to rush to the Quad to see it before it leaves town. The cry of many Jews in concentration camps before they were killed yelled to those watching the hangings and shootings was ‘Zachor’ — Hebrew for ‘remember.’ This movie may make people remember a world which has in large part forgotten what it did or allowed to be done a mere 60 or so years ago.

“The Big Fish” (-)
I had been told by AT and PT that this movie is so bad they left in the middle of it. So why did I go? HS insisted on seeing it. Better I should have stayed home. I too found it tedious, but I never leave bad films until they end, hoping they will get better. They never do.

This film takes place in the American south and has a well-known cast. It’s the story of Edward Bloom (Albert Finney), his wife, Josephine (Marion Cotillard), and their son, Will (Billy Crudup). The younger Edward Bloom is played by Ewan McGregor.

The entire movie is intended as a fantasy. For me, the fantasy balloon was a lead balloon. The fantasies include life in a small town and a witch, (Helena Bonham Carter), whose right eyeball is a crystal ball showing the future and the way people will die.

Will is estranged from his father. He views him as a liar rather than someone living in a dream world who embellishes all of life’s incidents, e.g., a catfish in the river swallowing his wedding ring becomes the biggest catfish ever, and a tall, feared man suffering from what I detected as the disease of gigantism, becomes the gentle giant joining Edward in his desire to help an entire town recover its economic stability. Death finally arrives for Edward Bloom, and Bloom is met by his neighbors, the townspeople, with good will and he displays stoic sensibility.

I left the theater immediately after the movie ended, not waiting for the credit crawls, which is a breach of professional critic manners on my part. HS immediately said he loved the film and volunteered later that he asked 10 people about it and everyone enjoyed it. HG, who also joined us, said he liked it. I can’t explain their responses. You will now have to decide in view of the conflict whether or not to see it.

- Ed Koch


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