Volume 76, Number 47 | April 18 - 24, 2007

Koch on film

By Ed Koch

“The Lookout” (+)
This movie is interesting but not very memorable. It plays on a motif brought to its height by the film “Memento” starring Guy Pearce. 

A severe car accident has left Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordo-Levitt) with a loss of memory and the inability to concentrate. He is a bank porter in a small Nebraska town and lives with his blind friend, Lewis (Jeff Daniels). Chris, who is somewhat detached from his family, has lost the ability to easily talk and relate to others. He wants to become a bank cashier, which is unlikely to occur because of his impaired cognitive abilities. He finds it difficult to remember simple tasks like opening and closing the bank door and removing his car keys from the ignition. 

The plot takes off in the middle of the picture when a bank heist is planned by Chris’ former classmate, Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode). Gary introduces Chris to Luvlee Lemons (Isla Fisher) who proceeds to seduce Chris. Another member of the planned heist is Bone, a truly menacing character superbly performed in a cameo role by Greg Dunham.  

Some of the winter Kansas scenes reminded me of those in “Fargo.” While “The Lookout” is not as good as “Memento” or “Fargo,” it is worth seeing. The acting, especially that of Gordo-Levitt is terrific, and the shoot-em-up scenes are particularly well done. 

“Black Book” (+)
This film on the Holocaust is seriously flawed and occasionally ridiculous. Nevertheless, the subject of how such evil could dominate so much of Europe continues to hold our attention.  

Based on a true incident, the “Black Book” covers the plight of a young Jewish woman, Rachel Stein (Carice van Houten), who took the Christian name of Ellis. She was hidden by a Dutch farm family from the Nazis during the occupation, but their home was bombed. Rachel, whose family is hidden elsewhere in Holland, is contacted by a man who offers to help them and others escape to Belgium where it is apparently safer for them to live. On the way they are betrayed, but Rachel escapes. She later becomes the lover of the head of the local Gestapo, Ludwig Muntze (Sebastian Koch). Rachel joins the Dutch underground fighting the Nazis. The group is led by Gerben Kuipers (Derek de Lint) and another member of the group is Dr. Hans Akkermans (Thom Hoffman). Working with the British, the resistance group is securing and storing guns for the final liberation effort. The year is 1945 and the Russians are in Berlin.

Plots, subplots, betrayal, revenge, torture, spying and counter-spying occur throughout. The script too often relies on coincidence and is frequently foolish and occasionally ludicrous. In spite of its serious flaws, the movie has a strong impact and provides some insights into what happened in Holland under Nazi rule. 

Because of Anne Frank’s diary, Holland has often been thought of as one of the countries most concerned with saving its Jewish population. In fact, it has the worst statistical record of the occupied nations in saving their respective Jewish communities. When compared with the other occupied nations, the smallest percentage of Dutch Jews survived the Holocaust.  

As mayor of New York City, once known as New Amsterdam, I was the guest of the mayor of Amsterdam, Ed van Thijn, who is Jewish. He had been hidden by a Dutch Christian family during the war and told me that he would never forget his protectors who risked their freedom and perhaps their lives for him. But as one of the Dutchmen participating in the discussion said, the family protecting him required that they be paid for their services and they were. Remember, Anne Frank and her family were betrayed by Dutch supporters of the Nazis, and she and most of her relatives perished in German concentration camps.

H.S. said: I was reluctant to see “Black Book,” because I thought it would show unending horror. It turned out to be a cops-and-robbers film about the Nazi occupation of Holland. The sprightly, crackling, Technicolor movie somehow lightened the appalling evil it depicts. It is worth seeing. (In Dutch, German, English and Hebrew, with English subtitles.)

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