Volume 75, Number 32 | Dec. 28 - Jan. 3, 2005

Koch On Film

By Ed Koch

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (-)

I read two reviews before deciding to see this movie. The New York Times critic, Manohla Dargis, wrote “As a vision of the American West and the wide country around it, ‘The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada’ strikes both fresh and familiar chords, most of them pleasingly dissonant.” The New York Post critic, Kyle Smith, gave the movie 1 1/2 stars and wrote in his review that “Three Burials is just a cluster of symbols, and what they symbolize is this: a director who has seen too many European art films.” He is correct. This is not a good film.

American cowboy, Pete Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones), is a close friend of Melquiades Estrada (Julio Cesar Cedillo) who has crossed the Mexican border into Texas to earn money for his family. Pete promises Melquiades that if anything happens to him, he will return his body to Mexico. When Melquiades is killed by Sheriff Belmont (Dwight Yoakam), Pete makes good on his promise and also decides to revenge his friend’s murder. He kidnaps Sheriff Belmont and takes him along on his trip to Mexico. There are moments of interest along the way, but nothing of substance, and I soon found my mind wandering.

Jones, who directed this film, is acceptable in his role but not as good as he was in the television mini-series, “Lonesome Dove.” This cowboy role doesn’t require much of him.

During the film I thought about my review then yet to be written and wondered what I would say after describing the movie as an odyssey. Too much of the action is left unexplained. I watched an interview of Tommy Lee Jones that same night on the Charlie Rose show, and when it concluded, I had no further insight into the film.

To sum up, the movie contains nothing of substance and is only occasionally interesting. Stay away.

Down to the Bone (+)

When I left the theater after seeing this film, a man commented that he thought it was “very disappointing,” and a woman said it was “very gritty.” It is gritty, but it had a strong impact on me. It is more like a docudrama than a conventional movie, and it provides an opportunity for all of the actors to give highly-skilled performances.

Supermarket cashier Irene (Vera Farmiga) lives with her druggie husband and two children in upstate New York. She is a coke addict who soon begins a descent into her own personal hell. Irene ultimately tries rehab, and at the center she meets and seduces a male nurse (Hugh Dillon), a reformed drug addict. With the seduction comes a return to drugs for both of them.

The pain of all involved, the love of a mother for her children, the difficulties in staying clean, and other moments of dread having nothing to do with drugs, kept me engrossed with the screen. The movie is only showing at the Quad Cinema. If you are interested in the subject of drugs and their impact, I don’t think you will find a better presentation. On the other hand, if you are looking for a boy-meets-girl romance, this is not the film for you. Go prepared to bear emotional pain.

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