Volume 73, Number 3 | May 19 - 25, 2004

FILM


Koch on Film



“The Agronomist” (+)
This documentary depicts the life of journalist Jean Dominique who was born in 1931 and assassinated in Haiti in 2000. He became a political activist in the 60’s and bought Radio Haiti Internaationale during the reign of Francois Duvalier, known as Papa Doc. Lengthy interviews of Dominique are shown in which he passes judgment on the political scene. He was a charismatic person, extremely animated in his facial expressions and body language, and extraordinarily candid.

When Papa Doc died, he was succeeded by his son, Jean Claude, known as Baby Doc. Due to unrest led by a Junta army, Baby Doc fled the country and a Catholic priest, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, was elected president. Dominique supported Aristide.

Unless you are extremely knowledgeable about Haiti’s history, it is sometimes difficult to determine what is true or false propaganda and who the good and bad guys are. Recently, the U.S. media accused Aristide of repressing his people and denying them political rights. Not long ago, Aristide was expelled from Haiti. He claims that he was kidnapped by the CIA and released in Africa against his will. The country is in turmoil.

The documentary often looks amateurish due to the original newsreels that are pieced together. But in the hands of its first-rate director Jonathan Demme, who also directed “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia,” it is a very professional film indeed. The final scene, depicting the scattering of Dominique’s ashes into the ocean, is beautifully filmed and poignant. You will enjoy this movie. (In French with English subtitles).

“The Punisher” (-)
This film is based on a Marvel Comic figure. Even though it received poor reviews by other critics, I went to see it because some of the material sounded interesting, and I usually enjoy watching John Travolta on screen. The interesting material conveyed that this movie of human strength and courage was similar to “The Terminator” without the robot. I say, bring back “The Terminator” and Arnold Schwarzenegger. “The Punisher” as a movie and Travolta as its star are both awful.

The story concerns Frank Castle/the Punisher (Tom Jane) a retired FBI agent. During his service, he was involved in an undercover sting operation and the sale of guns to two incompetents, one of whom was the son of Howard Saint (John Travolta), a big-time racketeer engaged in money laundering for Cuban drug runners.

Saint’s son was killed in the operation. He seeks revenge by murdering Castle’s wife (Samantha Mathis), father (Roy Schneider) and son (Marcus Johns), which calls for Castle to plan the murder of Saint’s family. Travolta henchmen are dressed in black which reminded the audience of the flick “Men in Black.” Before long it was obvious that this film contains subplots from “Rambo,” “Rocky” and the Bronson films. However, with the exception of bombs and mines that create fires, nothing works. The acting of everyone is abominable. The theater was sparsely attended so my review warning you to stay away is probably superfluous.

- Ed Koch


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