Koch on Film


By Ed Koch

Volume 75, Number 25 | November 09 -15, 2005

Koch On Film

“The Passenger” (+)

This turgid film, produced in 1975, has been newly released. If it had not been directed by the master, Michelangelo Antonioni, I believe it would have been panned with credible kudos to Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider for their brilliant acting. The plot had great potential, but it was inadequately fleshed out, leaving too many unanswered questions.

Reporter David Locke (Jack Nicholson) is seeking to make contact with rebels in a sub-Saharan desert wasteland. He meets Robertson (Charles Mulvehill) at the hotel in which they are staying. When Robertson dies of a heart attack, Locke, for reasons never adequately explained but probably because of an unhappy marriage, steals his identity. It develops that Robertson had been an arms merchant, and Locke is soon on the run from those who dealt with Robertson and want to kill him. We also meet Locke’s wife, Rachel (Jenny Runacre), who is on the road looking for him.

The chase includes Locke’s visits to England, Germany and Barcelona, Spain, and in Barcelona we get a small tour of the city and of some of the architecture designed by Gaudí, which I had the joy of seeing when I visited Barcelona as mayor. In Spain Locke meets Martin (Maria Schneider), who acts as his interpreter and eventually ends up in bed with him. Schneider, who is terrific in this film, never made it as a big star after her appearance in “Last Tango in Paris.”

The decision of the director to imply and not detail all that was taking place was why this film failed. It could have been a very good film noir but instead it is uninspired and often boring. However, it is worth seeing for the acting and especially to see Nicholson in his youth when he was young, handsome, and smaller in girth. I remember myself 30 years ago and when I think back to those days, I can hear the Beatles singing, “Yesterday.”

North Country (+)

This tear-jerker film is well done.

After being beaten by her live-in lover, Josey (Charlize Theron) moves with her two children, adolescent son, Sammy (Thomas Curtis), and younger daughter, Karen (Elle Peterson), to her parents’ home in northern Minnesota. Her mother, Alice, is played by Sissy Spacek, and her father, Hank, by Richard Jenkins.

Josey, a single mother, gets a good-paying job at a local iron mine in order to support her children. She is soon harassed by the management, her male co-workers, and her union. The men don’t like females working traditionally male jobs and view her as disloyal. She insists on her rights, particularly not to be harassed by her male co-workers, and in the process is helped by Glory (Frances McDormand), a female union delegate. All of the principals give terrific performances.

Ultimately, the matter is settled in court when Josey hires Bill White (Woody Harrelson) to represent her. The story is based in part on the real-life experience of Lois Jenson who filed the first sexual harassment class-action lawsuit in the U.S. Although the court scenes are emotionally powerful, some of them, including Josey being cross-examined about her sex life, could not occur in most states today.

If you are interested in seeing a well-acted, feel-good movie in which good overcomes evil, I recommend this one to you.