Volume 75, Number 33 | January 4 - 10, 2006

Koch on Film

Mrs. Henderson Presents (+)
This piffle is an example of how talented actors can take a shallow script and turn it into an enjoyable experience for the viewing audience. The acting is deliciously British but the script is second rate Noel Coward.

The story takes place between World Wars I and II with Hitler on the march. Laura Henderson (Judi Dench) is a rich widow who decides to have a good time with the money left to her by her deceased husband. She hires Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins), who initially denies that he is Jewish but later admits to it, to operate the Windmill theater in the west end of London.

In its productions, the theater breaks new ground. Mrs. Henderson is able to get Lord Cromer (Christopher Guest), the Lord Chamberlain and cultural censor, to allow frontal nudity in the show so long as the female actors remain still, resembling works of art in a museum.

I recall Dench’s wonderful depiction of Queen Victoria in “Mrs. Brown,” and Hoskins’ terrific performance in “Mona Lisa.” Will I recall their performances in this movie? I doubt it. Nevertheless, with so many tedious pictures available at the moment, “Mrs. Henderson Presents” does provide some respite.

The Intruder (+)

This is both an easy and tough picture to take. If you simply go with the flow and don’t try to understand the movie and willingly be carried along as though it were a travelogue, you will enjoy it, as I did. If you try to make sense of it and look for rationality, you’ll be distressed at the end that you didn’t walk out earlier.

There is only one real character, Louis (Michael Subor). We meet him playing with his two gorgeous dogs, sunning himself naked in the mountains on the French-Swiss border. Then we see him in South Korea doing business with major businessmen; exactly what, buying what, it is all a mystery. Then we see him in Tahiti looking for his son, who we learn, he abandoned as a child. The son does not want to contact him, even though Louis, a sick man, wants to leave him all his worldly possessions.

How the Tahitian community reacts is both interesting and amusing. It has a Marlon Brando quality. Indeed, it is one of the few moments that you feel compelled to actually follow what’s happening instead of just floating along.

I saw this movie as a kind of “Nanook of the North” — more documentary than movie, although it is not a documentary, nor intended to be seen as such. Frankly, I don’t know what the director, Claire Denis, was trying to do with the book, “L’Intrus,” but she got my attention if not quite that.

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