Koch on Film


By Ed Koch

“Gomorrah” (+)

The title of this film refers to the Neapolitan organized crime group featured in the movie which controls the pickup of garbage and the disposal of material into landfill operations. I found it very interesting.

People are murdered easily in the picture’s nonlinear narrative. Two central characters include Marco (Marco Macor) and Ciro (Ciro Petrone) who decide they will form their own mob outside the gang to which they belong. The childish beliefs of these teens in their own criminal ability ultimately results in their murders by the gang they attempt to threaten.

Pasquale (Salvatore Cantalupo), a clothing artisan who runs a dress factory, is also featured. His assistance is sought by what appears to be a legitimate Chinese clothing manufacturer wanting to expand his factory. The Gomorrah reacts to the perceived effort of the Chinese to move in on their control of the garment industry. Scenes are also featured concerning the landfill industry, which by illegal dumping of toxic items has destroyed the countryside. Large, beautiful peaches are also foul smelling and should not be eaten.

I recently read of the Gomorrah’s strike in Naples during which they refused to pick up the residential garbage causing the government to arrange for the Army to pick up the waste. Does the mob still exercise some control of the commercial pickup of trash in New York City? Mayor Rudy Giuliani made great changes in seeking to root out its control. I hope his efforts were totally successful, but I don’t know.

“Gomorrah” is long, running 2 hours and 15 minutes, but worth seeing. (In Italian, with English subtitles.) It is playing at the Independent Film Center on Sixth Avenue and West Third Street.

After seeing the movie my companions and I had dinner at Café Select, a Swiss bistro located at 212 Lafayette Street, in Nolita. They tried to dine at the restaurant the previous week, but were unable to be seated because of the crowds. (The restaurant only takes reservations for parties of eight or more.) Fortunately, when we arrived after the movie around 10 p.m. on a Saturday night, we were seated.

The food is very good and reasonably priced. Two of us had the veal sausage served with purple cabbage and the third person had the veal schnitzel. I also had a Swiss beer, which was very tasty. The tab including tip for the three of us came to $163.00.

“Two Lovers” (+)

The movie, which is really the story of four lovers, is a downer in terms of its effect on the audience. It is artfully done, however, and it held my interest from beginning to end.

The central character is Leonard (Joaquin Phoenix), a Jewish boy in his 30s who lives with his father Reuben (Moni Moshonov) and his mother, Ruth (Isabella Rossellini), in a Russian-Jewish community in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. We learn that Leonard’s first love ended with his fiancée’s parents objecting to their daughter marrying him and that he spent some time in a mental hospital.

Michelle (Gwyneth Paltrow) is Leonard’s neighbor with whom he progressively becomes more entangled. Michelle is the mistress of Ronald (Elias Koteas), a rich, married lawyer who constantly promises to leave his wife but never does. The fourth main character is Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), whose wealthy father would like to snare Leonard for his daughter. He is also interested in purchasing the dry cleaning store owned by Leonard’s father.

I am very proud of the fact that during my years in Congress, I—along with then Republican Minority Leader Gerald Ford, U.S. Attorney John Mitchell and others—were responsible for the attorney general exercising his parole authority and allowing anyone then permitted to leave the Soviet Union to enter the United States. They came by the tens of thousands, and many of them settled in Brighton Beach. But that’s a story for another day, perhaps in one of my commentaries.

Today Brighton is referred to as Little Odessa by the Sea. The homes, many of which were built by the immigrants, are lovely, and their restaurants and stores offer the most sumptuous foods. One of the best movies ever made about that community, which tells the story of the Russian mafia, is “Little Odessa.” It is available on CD.

“Two Lovers” is not as good as “Little Odessa,” but it is worth your time. In addition, it may be the last film in which Joaquin Phoenix appears. He has stated that he will no longer act and will now pursue a music career.