Volume 76, Number 48 | April 25 - May1, 2007


Koch on film

By Ed Koch

“The Hoax” (-)
Most reviews that I read of this film were laudatory. I found it boring.

The movie is based on the hoax perpetrated by the author Clifford Irving (Richard Gere). He told his publisher at McGraw-Hill that Howard Hughes had authorized him to write his official biography. His source of information is a manuscript stolen from Hughes by a discontented former employee. Irving’s partner in crime was Dick Suskind (Alfred Molina) and Irving’s wife, Edith (Marcia Gay Harden), was also part of the conspiracy. He received a million dollar advance check made payable to Howard Hughes and other monies as well. 

The acting is first rate and the script includes several hallucinating scenes. Yet I found the entire presentation to be cold, and I didn’t care about this thief or the people he defrauded. I don’t recommend this film.

“Red Road” (+)
Red Road is the name of a street in a depressed area of Glasgow, Scotland, and a hangout of the underclass young people involved in drinking, drugs and alternative lifestyles.

The movie opens with Jackie (Kate Dickie) monitoring people on video cameras in a police center. Her job is to watch for criminal activity. At one point she reports an incident to a colleague but soon decides it is a false alarm. Her surveillance reminded me of “big brother” and of George Orwell’s book “1984” which forecast the oppression of things to come, but the monitoring in this film takes place in the present time. We know that Great Britain currently employs many street cameras for crime control.

When Jackie zooms in on someone she knows, Clyde (Tony Curran), the true narrative of the movie begins. She follows Clyde, meets him, and as the British say, shags him. The question is why? To learn the reason, you’ll have to see the film. Along the way there is great suffering on the part of Jackie and Clyde, and their intimate scene is the most explicit I have ever seen in a mainstream picture. “Red Road,” which is disturbing in almost every frame, will shock many and will clearly not be everyone’s cup of tea.

I saw the movie at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas at 63rd Street and Broadway, which is one of the city’s great art film centers. American audiences often find Scottish, Irish and British accents difficult to understand in films. I have advocated subtitles for their films, and I was thrilled that this one provides them.

“The Accomplices” (+)
This play is about the efforts of Peter Bergson (Daniel Sauli) to convince President Roosevelt (Jon DeVries) to rescue the Jews being slaughtered in Europe by the Nazis. 

Rabbi Stephen Wise (David Margulies), who led the American Jewish community at the time, was known as the Jewish Pope. Like most Jewish leaders in the United States, he supported FDR. Rabbi Wise had been convinced by the president and others serving in high governmental positions, like Samuel Rosenman (Mark Zeisler), that a demand to save Jews by allowing them to enter the U.S. as refugees, would jeopardize FDR’s efforts to assist Great Britain. In any event, FDR’s supporters said it would not be successful because of the huge anti-Semitism that existed in the U.S. at the time which was when 15 million people were listening to the radio broadcast of Father Coughlin, a leading anti-Semite.  

The American leader of the effort to save the Jews was the great polemicist Ben Hecht, played by Jon DeVries who also portrays FDR. Henry Morgenthau (Mark Zimmerman), father of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, was appointed Secretary of the Treasury by his childhood friend, FDR. Henry Morgenthau caused the firing of the major governmental figure in the State Department, Breckenridge Long (Robert Hogan), who conducted the government’s policy of preventing Jews from entering the U.S. The play is extremely moving and reveals the anti-Semitism of both Long and FDR. 

My own view of FDR is that he was one of America’s great presidents. He led us out of the worldwide Great Depression that caused the rise of two dictators — Hitler in Germany and Mussolini in Italy. He also led us to victory in World War II. But he abandoned the Jews. Millions who could have been saved were annihilated by Hitler who correctly believed that the world would not care. For that, I have said FDR will suffer in purgatory for a long time before he enters heaven. I know purgatory is not a Jewish concept, but I believe it is a good idea. 

The acting of all involved is excellent and the play brings every described historical figure to life. “The Accomplices” is playing at the Acorn Theater, 410 West 42nd Street, in Manhattan. It is worth seeing.


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