Volume 80, Number 24 | November 11 - 17, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Film

Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

Silda Wall Spitzer and Eliot Spitzer in “Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer.”

Koch on Film

By Ed Koch

“Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer” (+)
This documentary deals with the fall of former New York governor Eliot Spitzer — who, while in office, used an “escort” service that charged upwards of $2,000 an hour. An actress superbly delivers the chatty and often humorous lines provided by “Angelina,” a working girl who was one of Eliot’s “escorts.” The funniest and best-delivered comments are made by the madam who co-created the Emperors Club VIP (the escort service he patronized).

Eliot and I are political friends and have known one another for many years. He is a brilliant man, and when he asked for my support in his 1998 attorney general campaign, I supported him. At the time the prostitution episode emerged, I commented that nothing could explain his behavior other than the fact that he had a screw loose in his head. Probably several.

The enormous public attention given to this Greek tragedy, of how the mighty has fallen, undoubtedly had a profound effect on his wonderful family. Eliot is fortunate that his intelligent and beautiful wife, Silda Wall Spitzer, stood by him during the ordeal and continues to do so today.

Eliot was a reformer. Had he not been brought down by his inexplicable conduct, he would have shaken up Albany in a positive way. The film provides him with more than a fair shake. It did not, however, adequately explain his conduct toward Wall Street tycoons (particularly John Whitehead, whom I recall he tracked down in Texas and threatened in an unacceptable manner).

So far as I know, Eliot committed no crime, injured no one but himself, and was never indicted. Why he resigned as governor in March 2008, after serving only 15 months in office, is not adequately discussed in the movie. It is possible that he resigned to avoid Federal prosecution. According to other reports, he was told that he would be impeached by the Assembly and removed by the Senate — and, that because of his “steamroller” and other insulting behavior toward the Albany legislators, only a handful would vote against impeachment. The grounds for impeachment are not made clear, except that a legislature can probably impeach for unbecoming behavior, which his certainly was.

In any event, this picture (written and directed by Alex Gibney) is worth seeing. I saw it at the Angelika Film Center (18 W. Houston St., at Mercer).

Henry Stern said: “This picture shows how someone who is very smart can do something very stupid. It was ridiculous for him to believe that a governor could repeatedly patronize a prostitution ring and not be caught sooner or later. His behavior in other areas was increasingly erratic as the years passed (the pursuit of Troopergate, the empty threats to legislators, the tantrums with his own staff). All of these indicate a wonderful mind, unfortunately out of control. In his work as Attorney General, the public interest generally coincided with his fervent ambition.

“He threatened media exposure, which would depress stock prices — in order to intimidate companies into huge settlements. He was, however, generally right on the merits of the cases he brought, and he served the public bravely and well. Sadly, he was possessed by demons which led to his downfall, abetted by the enemies he made by his good deeds. I hope he now devotes himself to the public interest, rather than retreating to his father’s empire.”

Documentary. Rated R. Run Time: 1hour, 49 minutes.

“Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench” (-)
The one item missing in this movie is a real story. The basic plot involves the love affairs of a trumpet player, Guy (Jason Palmer), during a brief period with two women — shy waitress Madeline (Desiree Garcia) and the more aggressive Elena (Sandha Khin), who sometimes courts danger. Neither of the romances are fully developed. Poetically speaking, they were gossamer. Prosaically, they lacked gravitas.

One memorable and sensual scene involves Elena and Guy meeting in a subway car. They are thrown together as strangers riding the subway often are, and are immediately attracted to one another. Other than that one image, I left the theater having no fond memories or anything to mull over. Music continuously plays throughout the film along with occasional dance fantasies. Perhaps it was the music that I vastly underappreciated — which others, like Ms. Catsoulis, found sufficiently satisfying so as to forgive the lack of a plot.

I was surprised to hear the audience burst into applause when the lights went up. If you decide to see “Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench,” let me know if you agree with my conclusion or what it was that I missed in the picture. I saw it at Cinema Village (22 E. 12th St.).

Unrated. Run Time: 1 hour, 22 minutes.


“The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” (+)
I have now seen all three films based on Stieg Larsson’s books: “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.” If you saw the first two now cult pictures, you should catch this one, which wraps up the trilogy — even though it is the least exciting.

For those who have not seen the first two pictures, let me provide a brief summary. At the age of 12, Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) set her father, Alexander Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov), on fire after he brutalized her mother. Zalachenko was a Soviet agent who defected to the Swedes. Wanting to protect their newfound turncoat and spy, the Swedish government embarked upon a plan to institutionalize Lisbeth for alleged mental problems. Following her release from the institution, she was brutalized and raped by the guardian placed in charge of her affairs. Lisbeth begins working as a private investigator and her savior is a journalist, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist )— who falls in love with her.

In the second film, Lisbeth again teams up with Mikael (investigating a sex-trafficking operation in Sweden). In the third film she is in the hospital having a bullet removed from her brain. The cabal wants her returned to the mental institution, and half the film involves a trial to test her competency.

The first two movies contained an extraordinary amount of violence; the last one less so. In all three pictures, Noomi Rapace does an extraordinary job portraying Lisbeth — a young woman of super strength, deadpan behavior and often outrageous in appearance. Michael Nyqvist is excellent as well.

I enjoyed all three films, although I thought “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” wrapped up the trilogy with a whimper rather than a bang. I saw the movie at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema (143 E. Houston St. btw. 1st & 2nd Aves.).

Rated R. Run Time: 2 hours, 28 minutes. In Swedish, with English subtitles.

 

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