Koch on Film 


Volume 78 / Number 15 – September 3 – 9, 2008

West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Koch on Film 

“Mamma’s Man” (-)

Having seen all the good movies that opened in the last several weeks, I decided to see “Mamma’s Man” after reading V.A. Musetto’s review in the New York Post. I wasn’t overly impressed with his description, but since he gave it three stars, I decided to go. Regrettably, I have to give the picture a negative review.

The film—a true story written and directed by Azazel Jacobs—covers what appears to be a week or so in the life of Mikey (Matt Boren) and his descent into depression. Mikey, who lives in Los Angeles and looks to be in his 30s, is visiting his parents in New York City. His father, a filmmaker, and his mother, an artist, live in a loft near City Hall. The couple is played by Azazel’s real parents, Ken and Flo Jacobs, and the picture is overwhelmingly filmed in their loft apartment in which Azazel was raised.

Mikey has what we used to call a nervous breakdown. At one point he ends up sitting on his mother’s lap with his face burrowed into her shoulder while she strokes his body trying to calm him.

Following the film, the writer and near entire cast appeared on stage to express their views and answer questions from the audience. The most discussed aspect was how those making the picture were able to do so in such narrow quarters. The loft reminded me of the squalor and cluttered rooms in which the Collier Brothers lived. Do you remember those guys? If not, Google them.

Azazel and the cast were very engaging and had obviously put a tremendous amount of effort into making the movie. In the end, however, I was reminded of the old maxim, “garbage in, garbage out.” Ouch, that hurt even as I wrote it, but my obligation as a critic requires me to be honest.

The audience, many of whom may have known the director and members of the cast, expressed its appreciation of the film with huge applause when the lights went up. After seeing the picture, I read Manohla Dargis’ review in The New York Times. She described it as “an extraordinarily tender film” and one in which Mr. Jacobs is “also acknowledging a simple truth about parents and children too rarely broached in American movies, particularly in an indie scene enslaved by juvenilia: There’s more to your parents than you.” I didn’t see it that way at all and was not impacted by the film as I expected to be. Regrettably, I can’t recommend this movie to you. I think there is less in her comment than meets the eye. My last comment is one I read somewhere knowing the time would come when I could appropriately use it.

HS said: “I did not like this movie; the reason why I can tell. Not that it wasn’t well done and well acted. The subject matter was just too much: an infantile, blubbering 30-something galloot, an intelligent mother who catered to her nogoodnik son, and a wise but passive father. The picture describes the son’s alcohol-aided regression into near oblivion. I was relieved but surprised that the picture did not end in tragedy.”

“A Girl Cut in Two” (+)

The title of this superb movie has nothing to do with the movie itself except for one possibility: A woman was destroyed by two mentally unstable men who loved her.

Gabrielle (Ludivine Sagnier), a truly beautiful, young woman, is a television weather girl in Lyon, France. Her mother, Marie (Marie Bunel), is a commonsense, middle-class, single mother who owns a bookstore.

Charles (Francois Berleand) is a successful author and highly regarded opinion maker who leads a very sophisticated and dissolute life. Charles and his wife, Dona (Valeria Cavalli), have an open marriage. Gabrielle meets and becomes infatuated with Charles, who is many years her senior, and she is soon willing to be his sex slave. When Paul (Benoit Magimel) a somewhat maniacal and extremely wealthy young man meets Gabrielle, he falls madly in love with her. Although his mother, Genevieve (Caroline Silhol), does not like Gabrielle, she hopes that her son will soon settle down and marry.

Before the movie is over and one lover kills the other, we are witness to the way France’s upper class conducts its private affairs—no different I suspect than the way their counterparts do in this and other countries.

The acting throughout the film is wonderful and the scenes will enthrall you. One scene in a brothel, devoted to kinky sex, which is hinted at but not displayed, is the least interesting. When I left the theater, I was surprised to hear three women say, after being polled by a fourth, that they did not like the movie. I did.