Volume 76, Number 46 | April 11 - 17, 2007

Koch on film

By Ed Koch

“Killer of Sheep” (+)
This is a well-done faux documentary. It is not based on a true incident but rather on the recollections of the scriptwriter and director, Charles Burnett, when he was growing up in a Los Angeles slum. The film, which Burnett made in the ’70s, was his M.F.A. thesis project. A half-dozen adults pass through the movie. Two of the most important are Stan (Henry Gayle Sanders), a young man who works in a slaughterhouse and longs for more than his marginal existence, and his beautiful young unnamed wife played by Kaycee Moore. She has nothing in life except her husband and children and is looking for a more intimate relationship with him, which requires a lot of coaxing on her part. A poignant scene involves her asking Stan to go to bed and his conveying that he is too tired. When she leaves the room, she sees him display his fatherly love and affection for his young daughter, and her eyes brim with tears longing for affection from him as well. 

The major players in the film are the children, raised in a slum neighborhood, notwithstanding the palm trees lining the streets. It is difficult to understand how children raised in such a squalid world can do so well. It is the world of Watts, which later, not in this movie, was the center of black riots in Los Angeles.

Everything works, even the scene of two goats leading the flock of sheep to their slaughter. The soundtrack is wonderful with Paul Robeson singing three wonderful melodies and Dinah Washington singing two others. Be sure to purchase your tickets in advance since most performances have been sold out. I saw “Killer of Sheep” at the IFC Center at Third Street and Sixth Avenue. The theater has very comfortable seats, bare walls, and the various systems visible are reminiscent of the Pompidou Museum. 

“The Page Turner” (+)
This full-length film really depicts a short story, which, while entertaining, doesn’t seem quite complete. Nevertheless, the picture does provide sufficient entertainment to qualify for my (+) rating.

Melanie (Julie Richalet) is a bad seed and a danger to everyone she meets, particularly to anyone attracted to her. At the age of ten she hopes to become a concert pianist but abandons that dream after a poor recital performance. When we next meet Melanie, she is in her 20s working as a nanny for the Fouchecourt family. The family consists of the father, (Pascal Greggory) who is a lawyer, the mother, Ariane (Catherine Frot) a concert pianist, and their ten-year-old son, Tristan (Antoine Martynciow). How Melanie impacts on each of these people and causes them to suffer is telegraphed to you before it happens. Nevertheless, there is a strong element of suspense. The acting of everyone is splendid.

The interaction among the family members is delightful to witness, and Melanie’s relationship with each of them is engrossing. Although I had witnessed terror in action on the screen, I could not accept the final resolution of the story. Generally speaking, short stories don’t satisfy me to the same extent as a carefully drawn-out longer story that provides more details and character definition. Nevertheless, “The Page Turner” is worth seeing.

HS said: “This picture is very well done, the acting is fine, the scenery is lovely. I suppose that in opera, people are used to tragic endings, but when I go to the movies, I really don’t enjoy seeing the total triumph of evil. If that doesn’t bother you, then go enjoy the visual treat.”

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