Volume 75, Number 10 | July 27 - Aug. 2, 2005

Koch On Film

By Ed Koch

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (-)
This is a terrible and loony film. The critics who gave it a good review should take a vacation.

The plot involves Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) and his chocolate factory. Although it is huge in size and production, no employees have been seen entering the building and no visitor has been allowed inside the factory for 15 years. By finding a ticket in a chocolate bar that he purchases, young Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) is one of five children winning a tour of the factory promised by Willy Wonka. Charlie, the hero of the movie, lives in squalor with his mother (Helena Bonham Carter), father (Noah Taylor), and his four grandparents.

Inside the factory, tiny workers (resembling munchkins) and ferocious squirrels operate the machines. During the tour the children, each accompanied by a parent, suffer unbelievable trauma. This picture is far too scary for children ages nine or younger, and parents should be warned that it is not a likeable version of the 1971 film, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” starring Gene Wilder. When the lights went up after the show, I spoke with several people in the audience and ascertained that they shared my opinion. If I had to sum up this film in one word, it would be ‘evil.’

Freddie Highmore, with his wonderful English accent, is excellent in the role of Charlie. Depp’s bizarre performance is that of a one-trick pony, and it does not contribute positively to his impressive resume to date. I would hope he would like to forget his participation in this film. I know that I would certainly like to forget seeing it.

“The Beat That My Heart Skipped (+)
As the doors opened and the theater emptied out, I asked those departing what they thought of the film. Some said it was “good,” one said, “I didn’t get it,” and another pointed to his friend and said, “she liked it but I didn’t. From their comments, I knew the movie experience ahead of me would be mixed. It was, but I’m glad that I saw this picture.

James Toback’s movie can be described as a French film noir. It is gritty, puzzling, unresolved, and interesting. The plot is a mélange of threads representing separate but interlocking stories. They are not directly linked like Robert Altman’s films which usually have a central, dominating theme. In “The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” the interlocking thread is Tom (Romain Duris).

Tom is in the real estate business with his father, Robert (Niels Arestrup). His relationship with his dad is unique and dutiful, and from time to time, he offers his services as a thug. Through sleazy, threatening techniques, including the release of rats inside buildings, they force the tenants out and then sell the structures for a profit.

The film, set in Paris, is very sensual and includes the handsome and rugged-looking Tom having lots of affairs. When Tom isn’t assisting his father in the business, he spends his time practicing the piano with his Chinese tutor, Miao Lin (Linh-Dan Pham), who doesn’t speak any French. Tom’s ambition is to become a concert pianist as his now deceased mother had been. I liked the plot and the music and especially enjoyed the acting of all the principal figures. (In French, with English subtitles.)

- Ed Koch

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