Volume 76, Number 54 | June 6 - 12, 2007

Koch on film

By Ed Koch

“Steel City” (-)

When I left the theater, I asked AS what he thought of the movie. He said, “It would be okay for TV.” I agree. We expect a lot less of television programs than we do of films that now cost $11.00 to see.

The story takes place in a small, depressed Illinois town. The plot can best be described as gritty, and gritty it is but without resolution. Carl Lee (John Heard) is in jail on a vehicular homicide charge, and his ex-wife (Laurie Metcalf) is now married to a cop (James McDaniel). They have two sons. Ben (Clayne Crawford) is emotionally messed up since his wife left him taking their daughter with her.

Their younger son, PJ (Thomas Guiry), is a busboy in a restaurant/catering joint where his girlfriend, Amy (America Ferrera), also works. Uncle Vic (Raymond J. Barry), a financial success who has not been in touch with the family for years, appears on the scene.

All the actors perform their roles to the hilt, and Thomas Guiry is especially sensational in his role as a son seeking to maintain a relationship with his father. It is sad that this picture with such wonderful performances and an interesting musical score made up of folk songs written for the film has such a weak script. As the plot unfolded I thought of Gertrude Stein’s famous phrase, “there is no there there.” Years ago when a Broadway show in previews was thought to be faltering, producers would call in a doctor like Abe Burrows to fix it. This film could have used someone with his talent to improve the plot.

For those interested in seeing excellent performances, “Steel City” may be worth your time, but if you are looking to get $11.00 worth of good entertainment, it is not a good choice.

“I Have Never Forgotten You:  The Life and Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal” (+)

This documentary on the life of Simon Wiesenthal, a wonderful man whom I have admired all of my adult life, is extremely well done and worth your presence. 

The movie begins with his early life in a small town in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire on the border of the Ukraine, home of 6,000 Jews and 4,000 Poles and Ukrainians. After World War I, the town goes first to Poland, then to the Ukraine, then to the Soviet Union, etc. Today it is in the Ukraine. My parents, Joyce and Louis Koch, lived in such a town before coming to America where they met for the first time and ultimately married. Fortunately, they came to the United States early in the 1900s and were not subject to the Nazi Holocaust that began in 1935 under Hitler in Germany and spread with war to the adjacent eastern countries and ultimately all of Europe, including their birthplaces in Poland.

When Wiesenthal was rescued from a concentration camp by American soldiers, he weighed about one hundred pounds. He dedicated his life to hunting down Nazi war criminals, drawing a distinction between Nazis, their supporters and war criminals. That distinction brought him into dispute with many Jews with respect to Kurt Waldheim, former Secretary-General of the United Nations. Wiesenthal would not join those who condemned Waldheim as a war criminal. He took on the big fish and hunted them down, a number having fled to South America after World War II, e.g., Adolf Eichmann and Dr. Josef Mengele.

To me, Wiesenthal was a prince of Israel. After his liberation from a concentration camp, he was reunited with his wife who was also a prisoner. They subsequently had a daughter, who now lives in Israel, grandchildren and, I believe, great-grandchildren as well. He died at the age of 96, looking as able and competent as he did at half that age. 

I saw the film at the Quad Cinema in Manhattan on a Sunday afternoon. It was well attended, the audience overwhelmingly made up of elderly Jews. Young people, Jews and non-Jews, should see it as well. Wiesenthal was an amazing man, and this documentary shows what one courageous and dedicated person can do.

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