Volume 79, Number 32 | January 13 - 19, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Emily Blunt and Pupert Friend star in “The Young Victoria”

Koch on Film

By Ed Koch

“The Young Victoria” (+)
This film is a lovely rendering of Queen Victoria’s life before she ascended to the throne at the age of 18.

Victoria is portrayed by Emily Blunt.  Her childless uncle, King William (Jim Broadbent), has chosen her as his heir.  Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson), and her chief advisor, Sir John Conroy (Mark Strong), want a regency to rule for Victoria until she reaches the age of 25.

Another uncle, King Leopold of Belgium (Thomas Kretschmann), plots to have Victoria marry her first cousin, Albert (Rupert Friend).  Albert’s efforts to get Victoria to fall in love with him are amusing.

All in all, the acting is fine, and while the plot is somewhat stale and very slow in taking shape, it is never boring.  Those who like opulent movies in dress and scenery will love this movie.  Regrettably, they will also soon forget it after they leave the theater.  When I saw the film at the AMC Loews Village 7 theater, the show was nearly sold out.

Rated PG. 1 hour, 44 minutes. Now playing at AMC Loews Village 7 (66 3rd Avenue at 11th Street). For screening times, call 888-amc-4fun. For the Box Office, call 212-982-2116.

“Invictus” (+)
This is an emotional and delightful movie starring Morgan Freeman whose portrayal of Nelson Mandela is outstanding.  Though far less impacting, Matt Damon’s performance as Francois Pienaar, captain of a South African rugby team, is fine and equal to the task.

The story is based on a book written by John Carlin entitled “Playing the Enemy.”  Whether or not it is entirely accurate, I don’t know — but it rings true and is in accord with what the public knows about Nelson Mandela (who served 27 years in prison for conviction as a terrorist).  He was released in 1990, and in 1994 when blacks were allowed to vote for the first time, he was elected president of South Africa.

As president, Mandela respected the rights of his former enemies and oppressors.  Indeed, he believed that if South Africa was to succeed as a country, it was necessary to keep the whites — English and Boers — from fleeing the country.  Had he not been successful in pursuit of that ideal, which his successors followed, South Africa would not be the great country it is today.  I regret that to date I have not visited that nation.

“Invictus” focuses on one small way in which Mandela pursued his objective.  Rugby and soccer are popular sports in South Africa.  Mandela acknowledges that when he was in prison, rather than support the nation’s Springbok rugby team, a symbol of oppression and apartheid, he supported its opponents.

When Mandela was president, the Springbok team consisted of only one black member.  Mandela’s black colleagues in government wanted to dismantle the team, but knowing that it represented the spirit of the Afrikaners (Boers), he refused to do so.  Not only did he want to keep the team, he decided to do all that he could to help it win the World Cup.  How he accomplishes that goal by contacting and working with the team’s captain, Francois, makes up the story which consists of a well-written script, beautiful scenery and exciting rugby games.

Mandela is a unique human being. The George Washington of South Africa, he inspired millions of blacks to end their feelings of revenge in order to create a great, new country.  Morgan Freeman’s portrayal of Nelson Mandela creates a superb moment in time on the movie screen.

Rated PG-13. 2 hours, 12 minutes. Now playing at, among other places, the Angelika Film Center (18 West Houston Street, at Mercer Street). For screening times, call 212-995-2000 or visit www.angelikafilmcenter.com.

 

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