Volume 73, Number 8 | June 23 - 29, 2004


Koch on Film

By Ed Koch

“Carandiru” (+)
Superbly done. The film site is the Sao Paulo House of Detention in the 1980s before it was torn down in 2002. Sao Paulo, the economic heart of Brazil, has outstanding architecture and is one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited.

The movie is based on true stories relating to Carandiru, Brazil’s largest prison, which was built for a population of 4,000 but on the average housed between 7,000 and 7,500 prisoners. The tales told are reminiscent of O’Henry’s short stories containing unexpected outcomes.

There are the usual prototypes you find in prison. None of the actors were known to me, but I thought I would mention their names and characters as provided by Stephen Holden in his New York Times review: Moacir, (Ivan de Almeida) the prison leader; Lula, (Dionisio Neto) a young punk; Dagger, (Milhem Cortaz) a young murderer; the sympathetic physician, (Luiz Carlos Vasconcelos); Highness, (Ailton Graca) a drug dealer and lover of two women, both of whom have born his children; Dalva, (Maria Luisa Mendonca) and Rosirene, (Aida Leiner) girlfriends of Highness one of whom is black and the other white who occasionally exhibit their racial animosities; Lady Di, (Rodrigo Santoro) a transsexual; and Old Chico, (Milton Goncalves) the philosopher and father of 18 children.

The final 20 minutes of this 2 l/2 hour movie cover a prison riot which ends in a massacre. If you can’t stand the sight of blood, don’t see this flick. As terrible as the New York Attica Prison riot was under Governor Nelson Rockefeller, I believe it pales in ferocity with what occurs in this film. The acting is brilliant, the characters all ring true, and the stories are realistically portrayed and very believable.

The movie has only two showings a day at the City Cinema located at 12th Street and Second Avenue, and it won’t be there much longer. If you enjoyed the TV series “Oz,” you will love this movie. It is in Portuguese with English subtitles.

“Valentin” (+)
This is a tour de force for Rodrigo Noya, who plays the role of Valentin, a 9-year-old boy living with his grandmother, played by Carmen Maura, herself a superb actor. Valentin is contending with his loneliness, resulting from a mother we never meet, who left the family years ago under mysterious circumstances and an absent, womanizing father (Alejandro Agresti). Valentin loves his father’s current girlfriend, Leticia (Julieta Cardinali), and hopes the two will marry and provide him with a normal family life.

The movie is as much a fantasy as it is the story of half a dozen people revolving around young Valentin who add to his experiences and anxieties. It is a simple film that I think you will enjoy, but one you can walk to rather than run to. Filmed in Buenos Aires, the movie is in Spanish with excellent English subtitles.

- Ed Koch


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