Volume 76, Number 25 | November 8 - 14, 2006

Koch on film

By Ed Koch

“Marie Antoinette” (+)
My first movie choice, “Borat,” was sold out at the two theaters I visited. Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” was playing at the second theater so I decided to see it, although I had read mixed reviews about the film. I was pleasantly surprised. 

At the age of 14, Marie Antoinette (Kirsten Dunst), daughter of the Emperor of Austria, leaves her castle in Vienna for France to wed 16-year-old Louis Auguste, heir to the French crown, and produce male heirs to secure the alliance between France and Austria. Louis is more interested in stag hunting and his lock collection than his young bride. (Dunst looks much older than 14 in this film.) We watch the young girl as she adapts to the pretentious French society and interacts with the immature Louis, his grandfather King Louis XV (Rip Torn), and the King’s vulgar mistress Madame du Barry (Asia Argento).

The scenes of Versailles are beautiful, the costumes exquisite, and the gaudiness and emptiness of the lives of the French royalty and nobility just before the 1789 French Revolution are beautifully depicted. We are shown how the royals living in their own biosphere of castles, gardens and pools had no clue as to what was happening outside the palace. With the exception of one mob riot outside the palace just before the couple flees, no scenes of the Revolution or the guillotine are depicted.

By the way, the film makes clear that it was Louis XVI who helped the American colonies in their revolt against England despite the fact that it was costly at a time when France could ill afford the expenditure. The French Navy played an important role in helping us to defeat Great Britain.

In the end, I was happy that I didn’t have to stand in line with the throngs of people waiting to see “Borat.” Coppola’s modern version of “Marie Antoinette,” which also includes contemporary music, is a good film that provided an evening of relaxation and information. The acting of the principals, including Marie Antoinette’s lover played by Jamie Dornan, conveyed an engaging innocence.

“The Prestige” (-)
I can’t tell you too much about this film regarding the rivalry of two magicians since that would ruin whatever pleasure you might derive from seeing it. I can tell you, however, that I found “The Prestige” to be inane, insipid and incoherent.

Set in 19th century London, two talented young magicians who were once good friends become bitter rivals. Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman), known professionally as the Great Danton, is married to Julia (Piper Perabo) and is a natural-born performer. Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), who is less charismatic but extraordinarily talented, is married to Sarah (Rebecca Hall) and referred to as the Professor. The performers’ desire to destroy each other professionally extends to their personal lives as well.

Other cast members include Olivia (Scarlett Johansson) who once served as Angier’s assistant and now works with Borden. Michael Caine, in the role of Cutter who is Angier’s manager, is always dependable even when all about him is crumbling. David Bowie plays the role of the scientist/magician Nikola Tesla who sought to shock audiences with reality rather than trickery like moving an object or human from one location to another through the use of electricity just coming into vogue.

The Victorian setting, mood and acting are all first-rate, but the script and magic tricks are so complicated that in the end they don’t add up or defy belief. If you enjoy watching magic shows, go see “The Illusionist.” It is not a perfect film, but it is far better than “The Prestige.” 

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