Volume 80, Number 7 | September 23 - 29, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Koch on Film


“Leaves of Grass” (-)
I’ve been a big fan of Edward Norton ever since seeing “Primal Fear” — in which he played a young man accused of murder. He brilliantly portrayed the character who appeared to have a myriad of personalities (some good and at least one bad).

The story involves the good twin, Bill (Edward Norton), a professor of ancient Roman and Greek civilizations. We first meet him in his Brown University classroom, and shortly thereafter in his office — where he is sexually molested by an aggressive female student.

Bill receives a call informing him that his twin brother, Brady (also played by Norton), has been murdered. He returns to the town where he was raised, (Little Dixie, Oklahoma) to attend his brother’s funeral. When he arrives, he learns that Brady is not dead. Bill has been lured home to see his mother, Daisy (Susan Sarandon), from whom he has been estranged, and to act as a double and establish an alibi for his twin brother.

Brady, who grows large quantities of high-grade marijuana in his home with the aid of special heaters, has borrowed money from Pug Rothbaum (Richard Dreyfuss), a leader in the Jewish community and synagogue. Pug, who is also a drug dealer, wants Brady to return the $200,000 he borrowed from him to finance his marijuana installation.

Norton plays both roles very well. Bill as an educated, sophisticated and well-spoken young man — and Brady, as a redneck in every way. Sarandon is totally wasted in a role that doesn’t allow her to exhibit a range of emotions. The performances of the other actors, including Tim Blake Nelson, Kerry Russell and Richard Dreyfuss, are all professionally executed.

The picture, which I saw at the Village East Cinema, contains a lot of violence — as much as a movie by Sam Peckinpah (master of violent films). There is even a killing by an English crossbow. When it ended, the audience — made up primarily of people in their 20s and 30s — began to cheer. Ed Norton and Tim Blake Nelson, the director, appeared after the movie to answer questions from the audience.

I was never really caught up in the film, but that may be because I’m not in my 20s or 30s. Norton fans will undoubtedly want to see the movie, which isn’t bad — but it’s not good enough to recommend, particularly in this fall season when better movies are being released.

Henry Stern said: “I enjoyed the movie, except by the time it ended, most of the cast had been killed off. However, they were clean deaths, and the victims were not models of rectitude. The part I did not like was the anti-Semitism in the film. Three major characters were Jews: a drug kingpin, a nosy murderous whiner and a Monica Lewinsky-type who appears early in the film. In a fight for his life, the drug dealer grabs a menorah to use as a weapon. There is one good Jew, a wise female rabbi. When I raised the issue at the question period, the writer-director, Tim Blake Nelson, said that he himself was a Jew from Oklahoma. It is said that the Jews are their own worst enemies. That is not literally true, but there is something to it.”

Rated R. 105 minutes.

Other Movie listings

Located in the very heart of Greenwich Village, the family owned and operated Quad has been showing the best documentary, foreign and independent films since 1972. At 34 W. 13th St. btw. 5th & 6th Aves. Call 212-255-2243 or visit www.quadcinema.com

Built in 1963 “in the shell of a turn of the century fire station,” Cinema Village’s three screens thrive thanks to the fact that they “exist where we are: in the midst of most diverse, cosmopolitan and cine-aware of cities.” At 22 E. 12th St. (btw. University Place & 5th Ave.). Call 212-924-3363 or visit www.cinemavillage.com.

Since 1970, Anthology has sought to “preserve, exhibit, and promote public and scholarly understanding of independent, classic, and avant-garde cinema.” That translates, rather well, into screening over 900 film and video programs annually — with time left over to publish books and catalogs and preserve films (over 800 films to date). At 32 Second Ave. (at 2nd St.). Call 212-505-5181 or visit www.anthologyfilmarchives.org.

This Arthouse cinema, with a cafe for discussion and socializing, boasts locations in both New York and Texas. Its sister space here in the city is Village East Cinema (www.villageeastcinema.com). At 18 W. Houston St. (at Mercer). Call 212-995-2000 or visit www.angelikafilmcenter.com.
Open since 2005, it’s hard to imagine the neighborhood without this three-screen source of independent, foreign and documentary features. At 323 Sixth Ave. (at W. 3rd St.) Call 212-924-7771. For the Box Office, call 212- 924-5246 or visit www.ifccenter.com.

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