Koch On Film


Volume 73, Number 49 | March 7 – 13, 2004


Koch on Film

“Dogville” (-)

If you see this three-hour film and conclude that it is a genius work of art, I’ll feel like a clod. However, you may agree with me that it is anti-American and the good reviews it received are all hype. The movie was written and directed by Lars von Trier, a Scandinavian viewed by the cognoscente as a genius and social commentator. In this present era, it is key for them that he be anti-American.

The film, which is more like a play, opens in the town of Dogville occupied by folks I would call Okies. (Remember Henry Fonda in John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath?”) They are far better dressed. On one occasion, the narrator, John Hurt, refers to the townspeople as “hillbillies.” A young woman, Grace (Nicole Kidman), is on the run and being pursued by half-a-dozen thugs in huge vintage cars. So begins Grace’s sojourn and interaction with the citizens of Dogville. They first befriend her and then betray, enslave and deliver her to her pursuers. She is degraded, repeatedly raped and ultimately changed in character. Through it all, she accepts her fate and forgives her captors until the final moment.

The film has moments of good acting by a cast that includes Harriet Andersson, Paul Bettany, Lauren Bacall, Jean-Marc Barr, James Caan, Patricia Clarkson and Ben Gazzara. In the beginning, in my mind’s eye, I likened the film to a morality play, e.g., “Candide” without the music. But as it went on, I found it insulting. At the end of an interminable period, there was a smattering of applause in the theater, one of two set aside at the Angelica for the sellout audiences. Believe me, you should stay away.

“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (-)

Early on during this film I became bored, and by the end of it, I was sorry I had selected it for review.

Joel Barish (Jim Carrey) meets Clementine (Kate Winslet) during a midwinter visit to a Montauk beach. They begin an affair which ends badly including accusations of infidelity. Clementine visits Dr. Howard Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) whose medical practice consists of erasing memories. She wants Joel erased from her mind. When Joel learns of the procedure performed on her, he goes to the same doctor to have all memories of Clementine erased from his mind. His procedure is performed by the doctor’s assistants, a nerd named Stan (Mark Ruffalo), and a jerk by the name of Patrick (Elijah Wood) who admits to stealing Clementine’s underpants when she was in a dream state during therapy.

While sleeping through the therapy to wipe out Clementine from his memory, Joel recalls and acts out episodes from his childhood which are interesting and occasionally funny. The performances of Carrey and Winslet are quite good. The other cast members have only minor roles of little significance.

HS and AS liked the film saying it was a novel approach for a Hollywood script and, while slow in parts, overall they concluded it was quite amusing. They didn’t persuade me. We all know that everything new is not necessarily good. I found this flick to be totally uninteresting.

  – Ed Koch