Volume 76, Number 26 | November 15 - 21, 2006

Koch on film

By Ed Koch

“Borat” (-)
I tried to see this film at two different theaters on a Friday night but it was sold out at both. Although there was a line when I returned on a Sunday afternoon, I was able to get a ticket. This blockbuster movie paid for itself the first weekend it opened. Why it received such good reviews and has been accepted by a vast audience in the U.S. and overseas is a mystery to me.

In the movie, Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen) comes to America from Kazakhstan to make a documentary. The script is filled with potty humor, coarse sight gags, and incidents that display anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, and misogyny. It is also intentionally crude when displaying a nude male scene involving Borat and his manager Azamat (Ken Davitian), who is truly gross in both body and actions. He resembles a Sumo wrestler, and the two tangling is not entertaining.

In one scene, Borat discovers Azamat masturbating over a magazine photo of Pamela Anderson, the woman Borat has decided to woo and marry. The film is intended to disgust and it does. I found only one encounter to be sensitive and poignant which involved the interaction between a black female prostitute and Borat. She was remarkable in maintaining her dignity under very difficult circumstances.

Why has this movie been so successful? Why are so many of us pleasured in seeing ourselves depicted at our very worst? It’s a mystery to me. “Borat” does provide a few belly laughs. If you enjoy boorish slapstick comedy and truly coarse and vulgar situations, you may want to get in line to see it. If not, stay away. 

“51 Birch Street” (+)
I attended the Bat Mitzvah of my grandniece on a Saturday afternoon. Over lunch following the ceremony, a guest asked if I had seen the movie “51 Birch Street.” When I told him I had not, he highly recommended it and encouraged me to see it. I decided to go.

The film is a documentary made by Doug Block about his parents Mike and Mina. At the outset Doug asks many questions of his mother who appears to be very smart, sure of herself, and apparently in love with his dad Mike after 50 years of marriage. Doug incorporates home movies in his film which depict a very beautiful Mina at a young age and a very handsome Mike when he returned from World War II. Age has taken its toll on the couple.

Three months into the project Mina dies and the movie takes a different turn. Doug, who is probably in his 50s, is married to a woman ten years his senior, and has a stepson and a natural daughter by his wife. After his mother’s death he sees a psychiatrist, and during the sessions his true feelings about his father are revealed.

Mike goes to Florida and a few months later calls his family to let them know he has met up with his former secretary, Kitty Duffy, and he intends to marry her. More feelings are expressed by Doug about is father and his two sisters reveal their feelings about both parents.

“51 Birch Street” is an enormously interesting film. It has been playing at the Cinema Village for about a month to full audiences. I don’t doubt that everyone in the theater was thinking about their own parents during the film. I know that I was. “51 Birch Street,” which is the address of the family home in Port Washington, Long Island, is well worth seeing.


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