Volume 74, Number 46 | March 23 - 29, 2005

Koch On Film

By Ed Koch

Masculine Feminine (-)
I remembered this movie from the 1960s as brilliant. My memory was reinforced by the critics’ current reviews, giving the movie on the weekend that I saw it, one of the very few four-star raves. The New York Post’s V.A. Musetto wrote, “Jean-Luc Godard’s ode to ‘the children of Marx and Coca-Cola’ remains fresh and vibrant nearly 40 years after its original release in 1966. With French New Wave icon Jean-Pierre Leaud as an aimless Parisian revolutionary and Chantal Goya and Marlene Jobert as women in his life. Brigitte Bardot has a cameo.”

Now, forty years later, seeing it for a second time, let me express myself in French. This film is merde. It is preposterous and I believe the famous director, Jean-Luc Godard who did so many memorable films, decided to see how far he could go in getting a well-trained audience which we all were in those days to applaud a movie that was totally nihilist, that had as its principals young people caught up in communism and the strikes that were breaking out in Paris and the anti-American sentiment expressed by the strikers. And, many of us fell for it. Godard was the director of the future and everything and anything he directed had to be a work of genius.

The movie’s conversations at bars and restaurants are often foolish and repetitive and intended to be so, some of the scenes including two deaths — one a murder and one a suicide — are bizarre, if not ridiculous. Either we’ve grown up (an editorial ‘we’) or society’s philosophical values have actually changed. I think it is the former. So be warned and save your money or better still, see it and tell me if I am wrong in my reactions and that you — if you saw it back then — still love it. E-mail me at eikoch@bryancave.com.

Jean-Pierre Leaud, the male lead who acted in almost every one of Godard’s films, is a fine actor playing the role of the protagonist, Paul. His lover, Madeleine (Chantal Goya) is excellent as are the second couple, Robert (Michel Debord) and Catherine (Catherine-Isabelle Duport). But the acting, even if brilliant, and it was good, but never brilliant, could not save this boring flick.

Upside of Anger (-)
Sorry, Folks, they still haven’t rolled out the good ones. Because they haven’t, and the movie screens for the last four or five weeks have not had really good films to display, the critics are upgrading the acceptable or even not-so-good, and providing a dog such as this one with enticing reviews.

I was conned into seeing this film after reading A.O. Scott of The Times, who wrote on the first page of the Weekend Arts section, ‘“The Upside of Anger,’ written and directed by Mike Binder, is a seriously flawed movie wrapped around two nearly perfect performances.” Maybe I am being unfair to Scott, he did put in several caveats, nevertheless his comment that the film, “almost works in spite of itself,” was sufficient for me to override the caveat he expressed in “seriously flawed.”

The story involves Terry (Joan Allen) as a wife whose husband has gone missing. We never meet him, nor do we meet his Swedish secretary, who left the firm the day he disappeared.. Denny (Kevin Costner) is a retired baseball player, who now has a talk show on a small radio station in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Both Terry and Denny are heavy drinkers.. She has four teen-age daughters living with her. They make little impact on the storyline and are at least for me total unknowns. Their performances are competent, but not stellar. Two of the daughters have romances, one leading to marriage, the other involving a schoolboy with sexual ambiguity. Joan Allen looks a lot like Michelle Pfeiffer, but she is not as attractive. She is a fine actor, as is Kevin Costner who, along with the rest of us out in the audience, is aging and fattening, and showing it more than some of us who remember him from “Dances with Wolves”. Terry and Denny’s need for one another for physical comfort and as boozing companions, is simply not enough to make this movie that interesting.

- Ed Koch

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