Volume 74, Number 48 | April 06 - 12 , 2005

Koch On Film

By Ed Koch

Schizo (+)
This movie will have limited appeal. It is an anthropological film depicting life in the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan, now an independent state. The film opens in a doctor’s office where Schizo (Olzhas Nusuppaev), a Mongolian boy is being examined for brain damage.

His mother says that he is slow and the doctor says he should be examined in the city by an expert. The mother lives with a Russian, Sakura (Eduard Tabyschev) who is a thug. Sakura’s thuggery includes involvement with gangsters who run a kick-boxing operation. Schizo is a gentle boy who gets involved with good and bad people. He assists a dying fighter who asks him to deliver his monies to the woman with whom he lives. He assists Sakura in an armed robbery. His very name given to him by his classmates is intended to injure him. What will happen to him with the passage of time is a mystery. The storyline is totally believable, but not so interesting, at least to me.

The film is more interesting than “Nanook of the North,” as I can best recall. That movie was fascinating to devotees of the examination of primitive societies, not so interesting for the rest of us looking for a real movie. So, be warned. This movie is for a special sector of the movie-going audience.

Melinda and Melinda (-)
Botched and not worth your seeing. Of course, the diehard Woody Allen devotees will flock to the film as they always do to all of his films. Historically, I have gone to see his films through the years, long before I became a movie critic, and I am certain I will continue to do that, critic or not. He is New York City’s storyteller and a portrayer of its locales — East Side, West Side, all around the town — this time spending lots of time in the West Village, stopping at the bistro Pastis in the old meat packing district. In fact, the movie opens in that well-known eatery.

Sitting at a table are four friends, the best known to the audience is Wallace Shawn as Sy. They are discussing a story that can be told either as a tragedy or as a comedy. Abruptly, we see the story unfold. It has as its central character Melinda (Radha Mitchell). Then, each segment is repeated with all of the characters except for Melinda played by different actors with nuanced changes in the plot. The audience is expected to see one rendition as sad and the other as comedic. I never saw the comedy aspect in either rendition. Oh, yes, there is wit, but for me, no comedy. Melinda in both renditions is a sick person in need of help.

The alternative story renditions open at a dinner party given by a couple and remember in each version, there are different actors playing the different roles. In the first go round, the couple giving the party are Laurel (Chloe Sevigny) and Lee (Jonny Lee Miller). In the second rendition, the couple are Susan (Amanda Peet) and and Hobie (Will Farrell). The wife has written a movie script which she will direct and is looking for a financial backer who will put up the balance of $2 to $3 million. I’m not going to go into the story because frankly I got a little lost. There are so many characters — two for each role and a total of almost 20 — that you have to keep track of. Most critics, including me, thought the movie bombed.

Yes, as so often happens, the acting was excellent on the part of the entire cast with the two black artists — one in each rendition — playing musicians and participating in a racially mixed romance. They were Chiwetel Ejiofor and Daniel Sunjata. This was a valiant effort by Woody Allen and the cast, but it failed, in part because the double plot was too confusing for most people to understand. But if you really like Woody Allen, whatever he does, you’ll enjoy sitting through this one.

- Ed Koch

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