Volume 22, Number 37 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | January 22 - 28, 2010
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures
Denzel Washington in "The Book of Eli"
Koch on Film
By Ed Koch
“The Book of Eli” (-)
Rated R. 1 hour, 58 minutes.
This picture is one big waste of time, including that of the actors and those in the audience who pay to see it. The star of the film, Denzel Washington, is also one of its producers. How he could have viewed this flick as a vehicle for his talents is one of the mysteries of Hollywood. It is beyond me why so many first-rate actors agree to appear in and produce so many awful films.
The plot is now a familiar script on the screen the end of the world and its few survivors. In this unintended sequel to “The Road” (which is also currently playing in theaters), Eli (Denzel Washington) may or may not be a messiah.
Eli carries a very special object that needs to be safeguarded for the salvation of those who survived the existing Holocaust that has devastated the world. During his quest, he has traveled West on foot for many years. Eli is impervious to all of the physical dangers he encounters, including the mayhem pervading the new world with its marauders looking to kill and engage in cannibalism. While he never raises his voice, he deftly dispatches all who seek to bring him down along the way.
One of Eli’s adventures includes meeting and taking on the ruler of a small town, Carnegie (Gary Oldman) who has a monopoly on the sale of water. Carnegie’s mistress whom he abuses, Claudia (Jennifer Beals), has a daughter, Solara (Mila Kunis). He uses Solara in an effort to win Eli’s cooperation by offering Solara to him.
At times, this awful film seemed to be an attempt at combining the wonderful “Mad Max” and “Samurai” films, but it doesn’t come close to the greatness of those movies. It can only be described as unbelievably bad. Avoid.
“The White Ribbon” (-)
Rated R. 2 hours, 24 minutes.
As I left the theater I asked HG, with whom I saw the film, what he thought. He replied, “That was no Hansel and Gretel story.” His response was a quaint but appropriate way of saying that this picture is no walk in the park.
The story takes place before World War I in a small German village which has its own baron (Ulrich Tukur). The waiving fields of grain and gardens of cabbage give the impression of a simple, idyllic environment in which to live but strange events soon begin to occur.
While out riding one morning, the town doctor (Rainer Bock) is injured when thrown from his horse. The cause of the accident was a wire stretched across the road. Who placed it there and was he the intended victim? Other unexplained incidents occur including a fire, farm accidents and a murder. Children are assaulted with extreme physical punishment by their fathers. The Pastor (Burghart Klaussner) also punishes his children and then makes them wear a white ribbon a symbol of purity.
What are we witnessing? A society that on the surface appears bucolic but beneath the veneer hides child molestation, adultery and incest? Are the parents evil or are the children the real perpetrators of violence?
After the movie a couple who had also just seen it asked me to explain it to them. I had no answer. I was as clueless as they were. My understanding of the film was further hindered because the subtitles were poorly lit and often flashed too quickly on the screen to read (the film is in German, Italian, Polish and Latin with English subtitles).
Suffice it to say, I don’t understand the rave reviews this picture received, and was not a happy camper when I left the theater. Subsequently, the thought occurred to me. The “Message” is that Peyton Place exists in every hamlet and city.