Volume 76, Number 43 | March 21 - 27, 2007

Koch on film

By Ed Koch

“The Namesake” (+)

This picture is a gem. After an arranged marriage in Calcutta, Tabu (Ashima) and Ashoke (Irrfan Khan) emigrate to New York City in 1977 and have two children — a son Gogol (Kal Penn) and younger daughter Sonia (Sahira Nair).

Gogol, whose formal name is Nikhil, rejects the Indian customs of his family. He is also bothered by his Indian names and begins to use the name “Nick.” I’ll leave the story of how he got the name Gogol to unravel before you on the screen. Gogol studies architecture at Yale University and later meets Maxine (Jacinda Barrett), a wealthy, very upper-class, non-Indian woman. His mother is not happy when he brings her home for a visit. She had hoped he would date a Bengali girl, Moushumi (Zuleikha Robinson), but Gogol was put off by her introverted personality. When Gogol and Maxine end their relationship, he once again dates Moushumi, who since their first meeting has spent a lot of time in Paris and become quite sophisticated.

The screenwriter is Sooni Taraporevala who wrote the scripts for “Salaam Bombay!” and “Mississippi Masala,” both first-rate films that I’m sure are available on video. The acting is sensational, particularly by Tabu, Zuleikha Robinson, and Kal Penn. Penn portrays Gogol superbly, conveying the young American preppie followed by an adult Gogol who grows up quickly because of a family tragedy and accepts his Bengali traditions to a far greater extent than he ever expected.

The scenes of India and the Taj Mahal are gorgeous. “The Namesake,” a love story that will make you both laugh and cry, held my attention from beginning to end.

“300” (-)

I didn’t think I would like this movie, and I did not. It describes the enormous courage of the Greeks from the City of Sparta who fought the Persians at the Battle of Thermopylae.

The Persians, led by King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), were seeking to conquer Europe and almost did. Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler), against the counsel of his parliament, took 300 of his best men to stop the Persians who were massing in the tens of thousands and ready to descend on the Greek peninsula. The action, which is very graphic, bloody and gory, didn’t cause me to avert my eyes because it is done in comic book style. The blood streaming towards the viewers is more like rain falling on a windshield that is swept away by the regular movement of the wipers. The movie depicts cartoon-like creatures in the Persian army, including elephants and a rhinoceros used to rout the Greeks. 

King Leonidas’ wife, Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey), offers to submit herself physically to Theron (Dominic West), Leonidas’ parliamentary enemy which was actually the City Council of Sparta. The Greek traitor, who leads the Persians to a secret goat path, is a deformed caricature whose face and body resemble the elephant man.

The audience applauded lightly at the end of the movie, but I though it was a ridiculous film and a wasted evening. I tried to get a ticket to see the show on Friday night at a Cineplex which devoted five screens to the movie, but all shows were sold out. I saw it the next day at a different theater, and it was only 80 percent full. Maybe word is spreading. It’s all hype.

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