Volume 75, Number 34 | January 11 - 17, 200


Koch on Film

Munich (-)
I went to this movie thinking I would be the first to review its action scenes divorced from its philosophy and politics and that undoubtedly the action would warrant a positive review. I was truly shocked to discover that the action is quite boring and that the plot and moralizing philosophy are not carefully thought out, particularly the latter.

The story is about the Mossad assignment of five Israelis to assassinate 11 Palestinians who killed 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The leader of the Israeli group is Avner (Eric Bana). He and four other men are to track down and kill the Palestinians not living in an Arab country. Those in Arab countries will be taken care of by the Israeli Defense Forces.

We witness the plotting and killing of men located in France, Greece and Holland. Failures, mistakes, and delays occur along with endless discussions among the Israeli as to whether or not they should carry out their mission or end their revenge murders. Avner, whose wife and child for safety reasons are relocated from Israel to Brooklyn, is conflicted early on about the killings. Among the ridiculous dialogues in the film is a telephone conversation between Avner and his wife Daphna (Ayelet Zurer). They have been separated for a very long time, and when he calls her on the phone, she ends the conversation by saying that she has to put the baby to bed.

A French family, led by Louis (Mathieu Amalric), sells information to both sides. Louis’s father, Papa (Michael Lonsdale), is a particularly interesting character and the heart and soul of this group. Although this family uplifts the film when they are on screen, their characters are not believable.

Director Steven Spielberg’s overall philosophy is ridiculous, as has been pointed out by many other reviewers. He sees a moral equivalence between the Palestinian terrorist, the Israeli victim of terror, and the Israeli angel of vengeance seeking to track down the Palestinian terrorists to exact justice. Ridiculous! If every country was willing to arrest, try, imprison or execute all terrorists, the State of Israel would not have to avenge the criminal spilling of Jewish blood because no one else would. I approve of that counter philosophy. I am lucky, as is Spielberg, to live in a country whose government will seek to avenge the criminal deaths of our citizens, whether they be Jewish, Christian, Muslim, etc., if a foreign country will not do so.

This picture is unbelievably boring and provides little competition to the noir films released earlier this year. Save your money and go see “Syriana.”

Caché (Hidden) (+)
This movie got first-rate reviews from a number of critics. In his New York Times review, A.O. Scott wrote, “Before we even know what is happening, Mr. Haneke, one of the most exquisitely sadistic European filmmakers working today, has deposited his audience at the Hitchcockian junction where voyeurism intersects with paranoia,” and, “While this film can seem politically simplistic, it is nonetheless psychologically astute, and more complicated than it at first appears.” I certainly enjoyed the film, but I would not praise it as highly because of its unexplained moments.

A family living in Paris receives photos and videos in the mail making it clear that they are under surveillance. By whom and why are yet to be determined. Georges (Daniel Auteuil) thinks he knows who is watching his family, and he believes it may have something to do with his youth. His wife, Anne (Juliette Binoche), is less resilient to the pressure of the underlying threat to their safety, particularly since they have an adolescent son, Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky). Some of the material deals with French Arab inequities before the riots that took place last year in Paris.

The problem with the film is that it does not adequately explain some of the relationships among the family members nor the relationship between Georges and the possible culprits terrorizing his family. A scene that occurs near the end is so shocking and unexpected that the audience, including me, released a collective vocal gasp. An inexplicable active scene occurs at the end of the movie when the crawl begins. When the lights went up a woman referring to that scene at the crawl asked me, “What was that all about,” to which I responded, “I have no idea.”

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