Volume 74, Number 51 | April 27 - May 03 , 2005

Koch On Film

By Ed Koch

“Sin City” (+)
I found this cartoon more interesting than “The Incredibles” and “Hellboy,” the last cartoon films that I reviewed. I did not, however, think it was as good as “Team America,” which had more of a plot. In this film, for the most part, the characters are played by human beings as opposed to animated figures. There is wild exaggeration in that they continue to fight even after they receive what appear to be mortal gunshot wounds. Those of us who grew up in the 40s remember such pulp novel characters. One that immediately comes to mind is Doc Savage: Man of Bronze.

“Sin City” consists of three stories strung together, and the third is the most interesting. Naming the characters would be foolish since doing so would be meaningless to most people unfamiliar with the stories. The various plots involve political corruption, violence, pedophilia, sadism, and betrayal on several levels. The principal actors, many unrecognizable because of their makeup, are: Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Clive Owen, Elijah Wood, Michael Madsen, Nick Stahl, Michael Clarke Duncan and Brittany Murphy. The film is rated “R” and is definitely not suitable for children.

I gave the film a plus because it is a good sample of its genre, but it is not something I thought about after leaving the theater or wanted to discuss over dinner. It is co-directed by Robert Rodriquez who came to public attention with his 1992 film “El Mariachi” which reportedly cost $7,000. That film was reviewed as the product of a genius. He produced a re-make of that film with Hollywood stars and a budget of several million dollars, which was a financial failure. He should return to making inexpensive films.

In his Daily News review of this film, Jack Mathews wrote that this film “is quality filmmaking at a bargain price…” Ridiculous.

“Look at Me” (+)
This film received mixed reviews, but I liked it a lot. It contains light and humorous commentary on the foolishness of humans, their self-absorption, and their search for love and affection. The characters and script are very much in the tradition of Woody Allen. There is a tenderness about the ever changing relationships, sometimes going from bad to worse, other times when misunderstandings are cleared up. Although the movie takes place in Paris, the West Side of Manhattan - Allen country - could be substituted in the context of this film.

Agnes Jaoui directed the movie and wrote the script in collaboration with Jean-Pierre Bacri, her former husband. Bacri plays the role of Etienne in the film, and Agnes the role of Sylvia.

The central figure is Lolita (Marilou Berry), a young, heavyset woman with a gorgeous voice. She is unhappy because of her weight and also because of the lack of interest that her father, Etienne, shows in her singing career. Etienne, a powerful publisher and writer lionized and feared by everyone, ignores his daughter and makes jokes at her expense, even though he truly loves her. Etienne’s attention is focused on his young and beautiful second wife, Karine (Virginie Desarnauts), and their four-year-old daughter.

Even Lolita’s former boyfriend betrays her, and her efforts to cultivate a new relationship with Sebastien (Keine Bouhiza) cause her enormous emotional, self-inflicted pain. Her voice teacher, Sylvia (Agnes Jaoui), does not much care for her until she learns that she is the daughter of the famous Etienne. She then pays a lot of attention to her student.

The New York Times reviewer, A.O. Scott, is quoted in material promoting the film, stating that it is “A witty and acute examination of friendship, ambition and betrayal in the Parisian literary world.” I agree with his review. My positive comments are not available for press promotion purposes before a movie opens, because I prefer to skip the screenings held for the critics and see the movie when it opens to the public with a real audience - you. (In French, with English subtitles.)

- Ed Koch

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