Volume 74, Number 44 | March 09 - 15, 2005

Koch On Film

By Ed Koch

“Sunset Story” (+)
This unusual documentary takes place in Sunset Hall, a residence in Los Angeles for elderly people in need of assisted living. The residence is advertised as a place for progressives which someone in the film explains means radicals.

The two residents we get to know are 81-year-old Irja Lloyd, who is in a wheelchair, and Lucille Alpert who is 95. They become fast friends and spend every day together. Both could be fairly described as political activists who even now in their deteriorating physical condition actively support strikes and picket lines, denounce President Bush, and campaign against him. It is all done with good humor on their part, and the discussions between the two and with others are both spontaneous and delightful.

Lucille is suffering from throat cancer and takes to her bed. She reports to Irja on the incessant telephone calls from her family explaining why they cannot come to visit her. She says that while she dislikes receiving those calls, she would feel even worse if they did not bother to call at all.

The film contains two delightful scenes involving children who visit the residence, and it was clear that their presence brought great pleasure to the elderly. If the public, private and parochial elementary schools in New York City are not already including visits to elderly residences in their curriculum, I think it would be wonderful if they did so.

When the lights went up a member of the audience came over to me and said, “You don’t remember me, do you?” I didn’t remember him, but then he told me that we had met many years ago on Atlantic Avenue, so I felt much better. An elderly woman passed by and said, “What a sad movie.” I responded that I found it to be rather joyous and that Irja and Lucille, who conducted themselves with such compassion, intelligence and courage, were great role models.

The film is playing at the Cinema Village located on 12th Street between Fifth Avenue and University Place. When I saw it, the audience was primarily made up of people in their 70s and older. Moviegoers who want to see a drama with a beginning, middle, and an end might not find this glimpse into the lives of two elderly women very satisfying, but I, at the age of 80, enjoyed it immensely.

-Ed Koch

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