Volume 75, Number 5 | June 22- 28, 2005

Koch On Film

By Ed Koch

“Kings and Queen” (+)
This two-and-one-half hour film is often inexplicable. Sometimes I could not understand what the characters were talking about, the dream scenes were difficult to follow, and the subtitles were not clearly inscribed on the screen. Although I looked at my watch several times during the movie, I knew that I would not leave until it was over because in its entirety, I think it is a work of genius.

The main character is Nora (Emmanuelle Devos) who had a child, Elias (Valentin Lelong), with her first lover who is now deceased. Her second lover, an artist, Ismal (Mathieu Amalric), has been committed to a mental hospital. She is now engaged to someone who loves her dearly.

A major part of the movie is devoted to the hospitalization of Ismal and to getting Ismal to adopt Elias whom he loves dearly. While Ismal is in the hospital, his parents come to visit. They are very comic characters who are part of an extremely funny story near the end of the film that is worth the price of admission. The most poignant scene is that of Nora’s father dying of cancer. Her father, Jennsens (Maurice Garrel), suspects that something is physically wrong with him. The scene in which he breaks down and confesses his fears to Nora is one of the most powerful in the movie. Having personally experienced such a tragedy, that scene brought tears to my eyes as I relived those moments.

The acting is phenomenal. Catherine Deneuve has a cameo role as the hospital supervisor, Madame Vasset. For those of us who saw her at the age of 19 in the film “Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” she will always be the most beautiful woman in the world.
When I left the theater, there was a long line waiting to see the next show. I was asked for my opinion. After a long pause, I responded, “It is a long show but don’t leave if you are tempted to do so. On balance, you will conclude that it is a truly fine film worth seeing.” (In French, with English subtitles.)

“Caterina in the Big City” (+)
This Italian film set in Rome is a delight. It is not a great movie, but it is an interesting one and worth seeing.

Caterina (Alice Teghil) lives with her father, Giancarlo Iacovoni (Sergio Castellitto), and mother, Agata (Margherita Buy), in a small Italian town. Romans consider its residents the equivalent of our hillbillies, but they are just like most people in their lower economic class: normal and concerned with living their everyday lives. (The residents of Rome, Paris, London, Tokyo and New York City are different than most other citizens in their respective countries in terms of attitudes and lifestyles. Many foolishly believe they are better than the rest of the country.)

Giancarlo, an elementary school teacher unhappy with his students, moves his family to Rome. The Prime Minister is Silvio Berlusconi, and the fighting between the parties on the left and right is mirrored in the classroom. Wooed by the leaders of the factions in her elementary school classroom, Caterina joins the left simply because its leader, Margherita (Carolina Iaquaniello), approached her before the student leader of the right wing, Daniela (Federica Sbrenna), spoke to her. Coming from a small town, Caterina does not realize the political realities that arise from accepting Margherita’s offer to join her study group. Daniela’s father is a government minister in the right-wing cabinet of Berlusconi. The fascist salute is offered at a social function which the minister attends, and no one thinks anything is wrong with that.

At school the girls violate all the rules. The principal is afraid to impose sanctions, because he fears the consequences of punishing the daughters of powerful men. An Australian adolescent, who speaks fluent Italian with a terrible accent, lives across the courtyard and sees everything happening below. He is ultimately helpful to Caterina when she gets into trouble.

The musical soundtrack is interesting on its own, and we are treated to a nice touristy tour of the Eternal City. The Romans parodied are stereotypes, and for someone like me not familiar with the Roman and cognoscenti scene, it was fun to watch. (In Italian with English subtitles.)

- Ed Koch

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