Volume 73, Number 4 | May 26 - June 1, 2004


Koch on Film

“Strayed” (+)
This French film did not receive high critical acclaim, but I thought it was well done. It has an interesting story and the acting is excellent.

The storyline involves a young widow, Odile (Emmanuelle Beart), escaping Paris for the countryside in 1939 with her 7-year-old daughter, Cathy (Clemence Meyer), and 13-year-old son, Philippe (Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet). Her husband died in the French armed forces at the beginning of the war.

On the road, Odile meets a mysterious 17-year-old boy, Yvan (Gaspard Ulliel), who joins them. To the benefit of her family, this uneducated man is resourceful and clever in the countryside, catching rabbits for them to eat. The horrors of war are brought home to the audience when casualties caused by German planes are shown along the road. The family occupies a deserted farmhouse, and tensions are raised when two escaped French soldiers enter the house. It wouldn’t be French if the film didn’t contain a titillating sex scene, and this film is very French. I liked it very much. (In French, with English subtitles).

“Troy” (-)
An epic disaster. If this clinker cost $250 million as reported, the investors were ripped off. The script is more wooden than the horse, the acting no better and the extravagant scenes and beautiful costumes look phony.

The Prince of Troy, Paris (Orlando Bloom), romances Helen (Diane Kruger), wife of the King of Sparta, Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson), and takes her to Troy. In retaliation, Menelaus’s brother, Agamemnon (Brian Cox), head of the Greek Coalition, forms the greatest navy ever assembled in the world to sail against Troy, situated in Asia Minor, which is now Turkey. Hector — the eldest son of King Priam of Troy (Peter O’Toole) — is respected not only as a great warrior but for his noble character and purity of spirit. He is ultimately locked in battle with Achilles (Brad Pitt), the best Greek warrior of his time. I kept thinking how magnificent Peter O’Toole was in “Lawrence of Arabia” and that in his youth, he was probably the handsomest man in the world, far more so than Brad Pitt is now, and a far better actor.

The film is based on Homer’s epic poem, “The Iliad,” which is thrilling. The scenes in “Troy” look like the old and now-laughable scenes in “Cleopatra” and “The Ten Commandments.” The New York Times movie critic, A.O. Scott, was right on target when he described the flick as “a big, expensive, occasionally campy, action movie full of well-known actors….it has the blocky, earnest integrity of a classic comic book…” My shorter review: it is a colossal bore.

- Ed Koch


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