Volume 74, Number 24 | Octuber 13 - 19 , 2004

koch on film

By Ed Koch

“I Love Huckabees” (-)
This is one of the worst films I’ve seen in years. Yet, it received very good reviews from most of the critics. The New York Times critic, Manohla Dargis, wrote, “The high-wire comedy ‘I Love Huckabees’ captures liberal-left despair with astonishingly good humor: it’s ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ for the screwball set. Chockablock with strange bedfellows — Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin play a hot-and-heavy married couple, Jason Schwartzman gets his groove on with Isabelle Huppert — the film is a snort-out-loud master class of controlled chaos.” Ridiculous.

I went with H.S., his son and the son’s girlfriend. At the conclusion of the film when I got up from my seat in disgust, I asked my companions their views. The three of them said they liked it. I asked specifically why and what they liked about it. The son and the girlfriend said they couldn’t provide reasons, they just did. H.S. said, “It was diverting to see seven major stars acting against type.”

I don’t agree with them. I think the film is a put-down of the audience by those who put it together and got so many stars to accept roles. Some will describe the film as a farce. A farce would, at least for me, carry humor past the reasonable and yet with gross exaggeration continue the fun, turning comedy to glee. This simply turned me off. The script gives the impression it is an attack on the environmentalists who oppose the construction of a giant supermarket department store in an area of forest and marshland. I didn’t think they made brownie points for either vision. The three stars, Dustin Hoffman, Jude Law and Lily Tomlin, went with the flow and hugely exaggerated their roles, but believe me, there are no academy awards waiting for them.

The theater was packed and all shows for the evening (opening day) were sold out. There was even some applause at the conclusion of the film. In my judgment, the audience was guilty of mass hallucination. Stay home, if this is your only choice for your evening on the town.

“The Motorcycle Diaries” (+)
This is a road film involving two young men on their way to epiphanies.

Biochemist, Alberto Granado (Rodrigo de la Serna), and his medical student friend, Ernesto Guevara de la Serna (Gael Garcia Bernal), travel from Buenos Aires, Argentina, on an old broken down motorcycle to the Peruvian Amazon. Alberto is 29 and Ernesto, known as Fuser, is 23 years old. On the way they seduce young women and meet Ernesto’s girlfriend, Chichina Ferreyra (Mia Maestro), and her family. They end up in a leper colony where both Ernesto and Alberto provide medical service to the colonists. They refuse to wear rubber gloves because they are told leprosy is not contagious when being treated, and they want the patients to see this as a sign of respect.

I enjoyed this idyllic story which covers one year in the life of Ernesto Guevara de la Serna who later became known as Che Guevara. HG, who saw the film with me, did not like the film and referred to Che as a terrorist. I don’t know if that is true. He was certainly a committed Communist, but that alone does not make him evil. Look at the respect Mikhail Gorbachev receives today. This movie involves no terrorism — the intentional killing of civilians in support of a political goal — so I accept it for what it is.

Not covered in this film is Che’s later life. He took a leadership role with Castro in Cuba and became an inspiration to Communists and the radical left worldwide. Che eventually broke with Castro and was killed in Bolivia. Alberto Granado, now a very old man living in Cuba, appears on screen during the credit crawl at the end of the movie.

I think this film is superbly crafted and well worth your time.

- Ed Koch

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