Volume 74, Number 30 | December 01 - 07, 2004

koch on film

By Ed Koch

“Being Julia” (+)
I finally saw this film last Saturday night at The Quad Theater. The theater was about 90 percent full which isn’t bad for a movie that opened over a month ago. It was touted then by the critics as a tour de force for Annette Bening and they were right. She is terrific.

The film takes place in London in the 20’s. Julia (Annette Bening) is an aging actress living with her husband, Michael (Jeremy Irons). She and Michael, who is also her manager, lead separate private lives.

Julia is jilted by her lover, Lord Charles (Bruce Greenwood), who is a homosexual. She is soon introduced by her husband to a young American, Tom (Shaun Evans), and they begin an affair. An affair between an older woman and a younger man sometimes works, but when the woman is old enough to be the young man’s mother, lots of problems will occur. Julia and Michael have a son, Roger (Thomas Sturridge), who is the same age as Tom. With the passage of time, the relationship between Julia and Tom becomes painful for Julia and difficult for Tom who is drawn to a younger actress, Avice (Lucy Punch). How Julia survives the relationship makes up the essence of this film.

Michael is currently directing Julia in a play and the songs used in that play, which are now nearly 80 years old, are great to hear. The final number in the play brings down the house for the audience watching that performance as well as for those in the theater where I sat. While I didn’t think that final scene was as good as both audiences did, it was amusing.

The acting of everyone is superb. Two cameo parts were especially well acted: the role of Julia’s son, Roger (Thomas Sturridge), and Julia’s dresser, Evie (Juliet Stevenson). The script is based on a novel by W. Somerset Maugham. It is, as his works are now viewed, slight, droll and originally overrated but nevertheless better than most others of that vintage. Overall, the film provided an evening of pleasure.

“The Big Red One” (+)
This is an interesting and historic film, but it is certainly not the blockbuster pronounced by some critics. It cannot hold a candle to the television mini series, “Band of Brothers,” which I think is the best film ever produced on World War II.

“The Big Red One” covers the history of the First Infantry Division from the time it landed in North Africa to take back the area controlled by the Vichy French under Marshall Petain. Petain had made France, conquered by the Nazis, into an ally until the allies invaded Sicily. It shows what happened to the same squad and platoon later involved in the invasion of Europe across France into Belgium, then into Germany, and finally their role in the Ardennes Forest when Hitler made his last attempt to reverse the fortunes of war ending with his defeat.

The squad sergeant is Lee Marvin. The players aiding Marvin are Griff (Mark Hamill), Zab (Robert Carradine), Vinci (Bobby DiCicco, Johnson (Kelly Ward), and Schroeder (Siegfried Rauch).

The actual battle scenes are well done, but the lack of story and dialogue, differentiating many of the war scenes, makes them less interesting and less threatening. One unique scene takes place in a Belgium insane asylum, but even that could have been improved upon. The American soldiers are from city and rural areas, and their humor can only be described as corny, so prevalent in American World War II movies.

I saw the film on a Saturday evening at the Film Forum the weekend it opened. Surprisingly, considering the great reviews, it was not sold out.
- Ed Koch

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