Volume 73, Number 6 | June 9 - 15, 2004


Koch on Film

By Ed Koch

“The Mother” (+)

The New York Times review by Stephen Holden was a little over the top in its praise, saying, “The Mother, an extraordinarily clear-sighted and psychologically balanced British drama, stares as calmly at May’s perilous leap into churning emotional rapids as a medical show does when keeping its gaze fixed on a tricky surgical procedure.” Nevertheless, the picture is very good and well worth seeing. The plot is unique in that it deals with May, probably in her 60s with adult children. Her daughter, Paula (Cathryn Bradshaw) now a single mother and a successful son, Bobby (Steven Mackintosh). May and her husband, who appears to be in his late 70s and is physically weak and suffering from a medical condition, probably involving his heart, live in the suburbs. They decide to visit their children., who are not really happy that their parents have dropped in for what may be a long visit. But dad suffers a heart attack and dies. Mom goes home, but is unable to stay in the old house and returns to the homes of her son and daughter, ultimately ending up with Paula. Now begins the heart of the story. Paula is involved with Darren (Daniel Craig), who is married but not happy and stays with his wife because he adores his autistic son, whom we never meet. Darren is Paula’s lover and soon becomes May’s lover as well. Darren has much of the personality of Alan Alda, a really nice guy. He really appreciates women and their needs and at the beginning of his affair with May says, “You can touch me, if you’d like,” having taken off his shirt. At some point, everyone gets to know how each of their relatives is in great psychic pain because of childhood memories or current situations. How they deal with their emotional needs is what this British movie showing us a slice of life is all about. Before going into the theater, I questioned about six people coming out of the previous show. The audience coming out and those waiting to get in appeared older than usual movie audiences — in their 50s and 60s and the movie’s appeal would be greatest for that age group. It does deal with a desire to hold onto life including that special part of life — sex. One guy responding to my question, “How was it?” replied, “I loved it; my wife didn’t.” Another passerby added, “Would your mother have liked it?” Another woman said wistfully, “I feel I’m getting old.” The acting was excellent, as was the dialogue, particularly between mother and daughter and mother and lover.

“The Saddest Music in the World” (-)

This is absolutely the most dreadful movie I have seen all year. On Memorial Day, I looked at both the News and Post for their recommendations. Both gave the movie 3 and 1/2 stars. The lead actor is Isabella Rossellini, and she is a terrific actress. From the reviews, it looked kinky. Remember “Blue Velvet?” That was kinky and really good. So I went.

What a mistake. It’s not possible to go into the plot because there really is none. It is a series of dreams, fantasies, surreal moments. Put it all together and it could be spelled Garbage. Let me try to give it some form. We meet Lady Helen Port-Huntly (Isabella Rossellini) who lives in Winnipeg, Canada. It is 1933. She is a double amputee — both legs above the knees. She is advising a group of businessmen that they can all cash in when the U.S. rescinds prohibition and Canadaships in beer. There are four other recurring characters: Fyodor (DavidFox), the father of two sons. Chester Kent(Mark McKinney) is Helen’s former lover. He is now having an affair with Narcissa (Mariade Medeiros), and lurking everywhere is his brother, Roderick (Ross McMillan) who wears a Zorro costume. The father, we learn, when a doctor and an early lover of Helen, involved in an auto accident while drunk, cuts off both her legs to free her from the car; one by mistake. There are elements of Dennis Potter’s “Pennies from Heaven,” and “The Singing Detective,” with lip synching, dancing and singing as different countries compete for the $25,000 prize for the saddest song. It makes no sense at all. It’s not funny, nor poignant, nor dramatic nor melodramatic. It is as I said earlier — garbage, and playing to a sold out audience. The last line uttered by one of the principals is “No one is luckier than me.” HG who was with me said, “Oh, yes there is — me, now that the show is over.” Avoid like a plague. Please, someone out there, give Isabella Rossellinia script that will allow her to demonstrate her gifts as an actor and provide an audience with pleasure. It doesn’t have to be kinky — it just has to be good.

-Ed Koch


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