Volume 74, Number 20 | September 15 - 21 , 2004


Koch on Film

By Ed Koch

Red Lights (+)
This film received fine reviews from everyone.  It is well done, but it is not a top-notch French film noir. Because the uncomplicated plot does not allow for sufficient character building, it never becomes enthralling which the best of this genre can do.

Antoine (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) is drinking heavily in a Paris bistro while waiting for his wife, Helene (Carole Bouquet), who is late.  She meets him and they depart by car to pick up their adolescent children from summer camp.  On the road they bicker, and he often stops for a drink while she waits in the car.  At one point she tells him that she will take the train to the camp if he stops one more time for a drink.  He does, and when he returns to the car from the bar, she is gone.  He  unsuccessfully tries to catch up with her at several train stations on the way to the camp.

At his last drinking stop, Antoine picks up a hitch-hiker (Vincent Deniard) who is clearly a menace and may even be the murderer he heard about on the radio who escaped from a nearby prison.  Helene never arrives at the camp.  What happens to her before Antoine meets her at a hospital, and what happens to him during his sojourn with the mysterious hitch-hiker held my attention, but it never became as gripping a story as I hoped it would be.  The acting of the three principals is fine but not extraordinary. 

All in all, unusual for a film noir, there was little to discuss about the movie over dinner.  (In French, with English subtitles.)

“Vanity Fair” (-)
This is a visually beautiful film, almost every scene a tableau in magnificent colors.  It the end, however, I found it to be a gigantic bore that literally put me to sleep on several occasions.  On each occasion that I drifted off, the eagle eyed PT tapped me on the arm and made it impossible for me to continue in the embrace of Morpheus. 

The main character in the movie, adapted from William Makepeace Thackeray’s 1828 novel, is Becky Sharp (Reese Witherspoon).  Plots and subplots are played out, all having to do with Becky’s desire to rise in London’s society.  Witherspoon does a credible job, but if the political maxim “the buck stops here” applies to films, she has to bear some of the responsibility for a boring film that never comes alive.

Becky’s admirer, Lord Steyne (Gabriel Byrne), also does a credible job but he never fully exploits the nature of the role.  Her husband, Rawdon Crawley (James Purefoy), adds little to the drama.

One scene of cavorting Hindu dancers led by Becky appeared to be added for its potential sexual tension.  But the dancers were unattractive, brawny and masculine in appearance.  Why the King of England before whom they were dancing appeared to be pleased is beyond me.  All in all, I found the picture to be a failure.

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