Volume 74, Number 41 | February 16 - 22, 2005

Koch On Film
Lost Embrace (-) and Swimming Upstream (+)


Lost Embrace (-)
I went to see this film because I had already seen most of the movies that recently opened and because The New York Times critic, A.O. Scott, gave it a pretty good review.
“Lost Embrace” is the story of a dozen people working in a mall in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They are a mixed lot of Jewish, Italian, Korean and indigenous South Americans. The principal character, Ariel (Daniel Hendler), strings the anecdotes together.
Ariel and his mother, Sonia (Adriana Aizenberg), operate a lingerie store. His grandmother (Rosita Londner) escaped from a Polish ghetto during World War II, and at one point in the film she reveals to him how she made her living (not prostitution). Ariel wants to raise his status by becoming a Polish citizen through his grandmother’s earlier citizenship. Bizarre. He hates his father, Elias (Jorge D’Elia), who deserted the family in 1973 when he went to Israel.
None of the other characters or their fragmented stories add much to the film, although there are a few moments of interest and occasional humor. Hendler is a good actor who should be given many more opportunities to exhibit his talent. The supporting actors all did professional jobs in their meager roles.
This film can’t compare with the recent very good Argentine films, “Motorcycle Diaries” and “Bad Education.” Comparing Ariel with “a character out of Philip Roth or Neil Simon,” as A.O. Scott did in his Times review, is ridiculous. If you have a free weekend afternoon, you would be better off visiting one of our city’s great museums instead of seeing this film

Swimming Upstream (+)
This Australian film is not a blockbuster, but it is good and well worth seeing.
The story is of the Fingleton family living in Brisbane in the 1950s. The family consists of the father, Harold (Geoffrey Rush), the mother, Dora (Judy Davis), and their five children, three of whom are predominantly featured in the film: Tony (Jesse Spencer), Harold, Jr. (Kain O’Keeffe), and John (Tim Draxl). It is based on the autobiography written by Tony Fingleton and his sister, Diane. Tony is also the screenwriter and producer of the film.
Harold, Sr. is an alcoholic, mom holds the family together, and Harold, Jr. is a bully. Tony and John are good swimmers and close friends as well. Harold decides to train Tony and John for champion races, possibly the Olympics, and the two brothers eventually become rivals in the sport which wrecks their friendship.
Early on Harold makes it clear that he prefers his son John to Tony. He perceives Tony to be too sensitive and mocks the fact that Tony plays the piano. When drunk, Harold verbally and physically abuses Tony, calling him a pouf, the equivalent of calling someone a queer in America. The effects of Harold’s verbal and physical abuse on his family are evident throughout the movie.
As we all know, Geoffrey Rush and Judy Davis are first-rate actors, and their performances in this film are fine. Jesse Spencer, who rivals Brad Pitt in appearance, is a new actor to me. His performance is excellent, and he is undoubtedly a rising star.
The film is not a smashing success with the critics. Regrettably, at times I could hardly hear the voices on the soundtrack and on a few occasions, because of the Australian accents, I did not understand some of the lines. But even with these limitations, I enjoyed it and think you will too.

- Ed Koch

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