Volume 79, Number 15 | September 16 - 22, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Koch on Film

By Ed Koch

“The Baader Meinhof Complex” (+)

This terrorist gang, which operated in Germany in the 1970s, was very effective. It specialized in bank robberies and murder, and its successes terrified the German population and nearly brought that country (then under Chancellor Willy Brandt leading the Socialist Party) to a collapse.

The gang killed their opponents — who were leading members of the government — by riding by on motorbikes and gunning them down in their cars. The leaders of the gang were two middle-class people, Andreas Baader (Moritz Bleibtreu) and Ulrike Meinhof (Martina Gedeck).

The trial of the gang leaders and others by a German court reminded me of the scenes in old newsreels showing the outburst of the chief judge in Nazi Germany after the failure of von Stauffenberg to assassinate Hitler. At that trial, the chief judge yelled at the defendants in an unsympathetic way, as does the chief judge in this film — creating sympathy for the defendants who apparently were given much greater liberty to engage in outbursts than I believe would have been tolerated in a U.S. court. Their sympathizers engaged in horrendous conduct, yelling and applauding the statements of the defendants, in the courtroom itself.

Before conviction, all of the defendants died in prison at the same time from gunshot wounds. There has been an ongoing debate as to whether they committed suicide or were killed by their jailors. The movie attempts to resolve the mystery.

Two problems I had with the film were that the subtitles were too small, making them difficult to read — and that they did not remain on the screen long enough to adequately read. Nevertheless, it is an amazing movie and well worth your time.

In German, English, French and Arabic, with English subtitles. Rated R; 2 hours, 24 minutes. At the Angelika Film Center (18 West Houston Street, at Mercer Street). For screening times, call 212-995-2000 or visit www.angelikafilmcenter.com.

“Give Me Your Hand” (-)
There is such a dearth of good, interesting films that I find myself grabbing on to the slightest offering.  This film met my time requirement on a Friday night following my live Bloomberg radio program from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., 1130 AM on the dial. Further, it was playing at one of my favorite theaters, the Quad Cinema, located in the Village a few blocks from my home.

The long and short of it is that that this road-trip film is not terrible, but it is certainly not a good movie. It lacks a plot and goes nowhere, but the scenes of rural France are magnificent.

Two 18-year-old twin brothers, Antoine (Alexandre Carril) and Quentin (Victor Carril) set off from their village home where their father is a baker. They are going to their mother’s funeral in Spain, and along the way, they have a number of sexual adventures involving both sexes.

The two young men are very different. One seems willing to take major risks involving life and death, and the other is a brooding artist who likes to sketch. They constantly engage in physical fights with one another. In one scene, one of the boys sells his brother without telling him to a male bar patron for 100 euros stating that his brother would enjoy sex with the patron.  This transaction results in the patron and the brother fighting each other in the lavatory. The finale of the picture has the brothers struggling in a fast moving river with the possibility of death by drowning.

So much more could have been done to create an interesting plot. When will some compelling films be released to relieve the tedium of movie-going audiences? Hopefully soon, or I may have to give up this job of movie critic.

HS said:  “I agree that the film is slight, but it is also quite pretty to watch. The robust teens are played by real brothers and are primarily straight, possibly curious. The background is the French countryside, a farm where hay is baled, small homes, sweeping fields, mountains and rivers. The scenery is attractive, as are the boys, who never seem to need a shave although they are out in the wild. The picaresque plot makes little sense, and its time line is impossible to meet. The brothers wrestle frequently in anger, but they don’t seem to hurt each other. There is a cougar scene, tastefully done. I would go just for the landscape, but the picture may not be around that long.”

In French, with English subtitles. Unrated; 1:20. Through September 17, at The Quad Cinema (34 West 13 Street). For screening times, call 212-255-8800 or visit www.quadcinema.com.

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