Volume 74, Number 54 | May 18 - 24 , 2005

Koch On Film

By Ed Koch

“Crash” (+)
This film got mixed reviews, but I thought it was superb. It reminded me of Roger Altman’s film “Short Cuts,” which was based on a collection of short stories by Raymond Carver.

In “Crash” several subplots are linked to one another by a central theme involving racism. The most compelling story for me involves Ryan (Matt Dillon), a police officer with a very racist approach towards blacks when he stops them for traffic violations. The fascination with his character results from his mixed responses. On one occasion it is pure racism, and on another he exhibits great courage to help the same black woman he had deliberately insulted. This particular story is enhanced by the superb acting of Thandie Newton who plays the role of Christine, the woman who is groped and insulted by Ryan.

Another plot involves Graham (Don Cheadle), a Los Angeles detective who in order to help his thug brother has to give up his own honor. Jennifer Espositio is terrific in her role as Graham’s lover Ria.

The characters in another story are Daniel (Michael Pena) a Mexican-American locksmith, and an Iranian store owner (Shaun Toub) who is the subject of discrimination because he is perceived to be an Arab. He is, in fact, Persian. In this story both men are good. It is the environment that is evil.

Several other stories are linked together in this film, and there is not a boring one in the lot. I really enjoyed it and believe that you will as well.

“Mysterious Skin” (+)
The dearth of good movies has ended with “Mysterious Skin,” a film based on the novel written by Scott Heim. Following opening night of the movie at the Film Forum in Manhattan, Heim and one of the actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, held a question and answer session with the audience. Audience members were curious to know if the script was fictional or based on the author’s real life. His response was that authors write about what they know best but that this film contained fictional aspects as well.

The story involves two boys living in a small Kansas town: Brian (played by George Webster as a child and Brady Corbet as a teenager) and Neil (played by Chase Ellison as a child and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a teenager). They are sexually abused by their Little League coach (Bill Sage). The impact on these sexually abused boys in their adult years is similar to the experiences we have been reading about of men who were abused by priests when they were altar boys.

Neil becomes a gay hustler remarking that by the time he was an adolescent, he had been intimate with every pedophile in town. Brady has repressed his memories of sexual abuse and is beset with maladies like nose bleeding and falling unconscious.

Corbet and Gordon-Levitt are superb in their roles. I learned that Gordon-Levitt was a star on the television show, “Third Rock From the Sun.” During the Q&A session following the film, it was clear that the audience knew of and liked his TV acting style. The mothers of the boys, Ellen McCormick (Elisabeth Shue) Mrs. Lackey (Lisa Long) also play their roles extremely well.

This movie will not be everyone’s cup of tea. It contains a scene of terrible cruelty when Neil picks up a trick who takes him to Brighton Beach and nearly kills him. For those who can take it, it packs the wallop of a superb docudrama with the artistic talent of director Gregg Araki, telling a now too familiar story: the destruction of helpless children in the vilest of ways.

- Ed Koch

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