Koch on Film

By Ed Koch

“Moscow, Belgium” (+)

This enjoyable Flemish film reminded me of the Italian neorealist movies released after World War II, e.g, “Rome, Open City” by Roberto Rossellini and “The Bicycle Thief” by Vittorio de Sica. These pictures are made up of simple, meaningful stories reflecting true slices of the daily lives of ordinary people.

Art teacher Werner (Johan Heldenbergh) and his wife Matty (Barbara Sarafian) who works at a post office, have three children: Peter (Julian Borsani), Fien (Sofia Ferri), and 17-year-old Vera (Anemone Valcke), who is an independent, free spirit. Werner has moved out of the family’s home located on the outskirts of Ghent, Belgium, and moved in with a 22-year-old student. Werner and Matty maintain a cordial relationship, and he visits her and the children regularly. Matty hopes he will soon recover from what she refers to as his midlife crisis and move back in with his family.

One afternoon when leaving a grocery store parking lot, Matty is involved in a fender bender. The driver of the truck, Johnny (Jurgen Delnaet), is very combative and known to the police for his anger. The two gradually become attracted to one another, and thus begins Matty’s midlife crisis as the two become intimate. Ultimately, she has to choose between her husband and her Viking lover, as she occasionally refers to him, who is ten years her junior. The choice, of course, I shall not reveal to you.

“Moscow, Belgium” is playing at the Cinema Village, one of Manhattan’s outstanding, avant-garde movie houses. It is located on 12th Street between Fifth Avenue and University Place. The film contains no huge, memorable, impacting scenes, but I enjoyed watching the everyday lives of this family unfold on the screen. Very few people were in the audience when I saw the picture. Too bad. Their loss. (In Flemish, with English subtitles.)

I often wonder why we are offered so few foreign films in our movie houses. Britain, Italy and France get the lion’s share of our attention, but almost every country in the world has a domestic Hollywood. Indeed, one of the largest such operations is in India which recently released “Slumdog Millionaire” a wonderful film currently lighting up movie houses in the U.S. Hopefully we will see more Bollywood productions as well as others from around the world.