Volume 73, Number 38 | January 21 - 27, 2004


Koch on Film

“House of Sand and Fog” (+)
My friend, PP, told me that he wouldn’t recommend seeing this film because it is a downer. It is a downer, but it’s worth seeing.
The acting on the part of all the principals is excellent and the storyline is intriguing. Everyone ends up a loser, but their journey is interesting and poignant the entire way.

The story involves an Iranian family, now U.S. citizens, living in California: The father, Behrani (Ben Kingsley) who was a colonel in the Shah’s air force, the mother, Nadi (Shohreh Aghdashloo), and their son, Esmail (Jonathan Ahdout). Aghdashloo looks like Sylvia Sydney, who was a Hollywood star in the 30s and 40s, and has the same low and sensual voice. The family is spending their savings to maintain the appearance that it is still wealthy which it is not.

Two other main characters are a young woman, Kathy Nicolo (Jennifer Connelly), owner of a house in dispute, and a deputy sheriff, Lester Burdon (Ron Eldard), who comes to her assistance. Kathy, a reformed alcoholic, is depressed because her husband has left her. She and Lester become romantically involved.

What affects everyone is the foreclosure of Kathy’s house which is purchased at auction by Behrani. Everyone along the way makes terrible errors with enormous repercussions. The denouement is totally unexpected and could have turned the movie into a soap opera and tear jerker, but it did not because of the consummate acting. The film is depressing, but life includes low points so running away won’t help. I think it is worth seeing. The critics tout Kingsley’s performance, which is excellent, but Aghdashloo’s is even better.

“The Lord of the Rings:
The Return of the King” (-)
This 3 1/2 hour film is the last part of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Those who love J.R.R. Tolkien’s books will undoubtedly enjoy this final chapter. I was neither impressed nor amused.

This film contains more fantasy and violence than the two previous ones. The armies of good and evil are gargantuan in size (credit computer images). The evil army of Orcs is led by Sauron, and it is accompanied by mammoth-like creatures and flying lizards. The good army is led by Aragon (Viggo Mortensen) and is accompanied by eagles the size of dinosaurs.

The battles take place as the Hobbit Frodo (Elijah Wood) accompanied by Sam (Sean Austin) and the gnome-like creature Gollum/ Smeagol (Andy Serkis) are trying to return the magical ring of power to Mount Doom and destroy it in the volcano so as to destroy the source of Sauron’s power. The evil Smeagol seeks to steal the ring from Frodo.

I felt as though the epilogue was the longest one in the history of film. My knees and legs were aching until the lights went up. (As Bette Davis said, “Old age is no place for sissies.”) Two weeks into its run, the film was sold out. When I saw the Broadway show “The Producers” in previews, I predicted that it wouldn’t last two weeks so don’t let my review of this film stop you from going if you like this genre of film. There will be no sequel to the third chapter of this triptych, because both Frodo and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) board the ship taking them to their deaths, I think.

“The Company” (-)
This movie received mixed reviews, but I decided to see it anyway. I am sorry to say that I was disappointed.

I am not a devotee of ballet, but I loved “The Red Shoes” and “The Turning Point.” I had hoped for a story similar to those two classic ballet movies or one similar to the more modern and intimate as in “A Chorus Line.” The latter is not ballet in theme, but it is an interesting story about dance, music and the lives of the gypsies making up the chorus line.

There is no story line to “The Company,” only unconnected snippets of stories. Actually, there are only two threads. One is the relationship of Ry (Neve Campbell) and Josh (James Franco), and we learn very little about them. The second is the director of the company, Alberto Antonelli (Malcolm McDowell). He is a fascinating actor, but he will never equal nor will anyone erase from memory his role in “A Clockwork Orange,” still worth seeing on video.

When I left the theater, I saw a friend of mine, BK, in line. He greeted me just as someone standing in the same line whom I’ve never met began to berate me. Being a little deaf, I thought he was saying something nice. He wasn’t. He bellowed: “The rents went up under you. They used to be $60 a month and now they’re $2,000. It’s your fault.” I replied, “Don’t you feel like a sick schmuck, doing what you’re doing?” He replied, “No.” B.K. quickly interjected, “Don’t feel bad, I like you.” I was thinking “This, on top of a bad movie. It’s not a good Sunday night.” But then I thought, the story line and dialogue outside the theater was better than the movie I just saw.

- Ed Koch


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