Koch on Film


By, Ed Koch

“Time of the Wolf” (+)

This film, directed by Michael Haneke, is well done. It depicts in a non-melodramatic way what happens when pestilence in some form descends on the French countryside. We don’t learn what that pestilence is other than it has contaminated the water supply and only limited amounts of drinkable water and food are available.

The movie opens with Georges (Daniel Duval), Anne (Isabelle Huppert), and their children Eva (Anais Demoustier) and Ben (Lucas Biscombe) riding in a car. They are fleeing the city for their modest cottage in the country. Five minutes after they enter the cottage, Georges is shot dead.

Anne and her two children run for their lives and ultimately end up at a railroad station hoping to catch the train which they are told comes by every few days. At the station they meet a number of people, some of whom are good and generous but most of them are not.

The film contains a reference to the 36 Just Men who hold up the world on their shoulders and preserve it. These Just Men, who live unrecognized among us, are known in Jewish foklore and holy books. Since this is not a story about Jews, that reference came as a surprise to me. But I was also surprised to learn of Madonna’s new name, Esther, and her interest in another Jewish book, The Kabala.

How everyone reacts to the catastrophe and what happens when Georges’s murderer shows up at the railroad station makes up the remainder of the story. It is not an exciting film, but if you can’t find a really good movie to see in its stead, it is at the very least interesting. (In French, with English subtitles).

“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (-)

I may be the only critic who didn’t give this film a glowing review. I found it boring, and I believe that children between the ages of five and eight will find it too scary and those between eight and twelve will at times find it incomprehensible and dull. I – now between 80 and 120 – didn’t always comprehend what was happening.

The film contains lots of magic and special effects. At some points the children go back in time and watch scenes of themselves witnessing a terrible end. Through their wizardly skills, they are able to relive those scenes and change the outcome of that event. The roles of Harry, Ron and Hermione are once again played by Daniel Radcliff, Rupert Grant and Emma Watson. The actors are now adolescents. The two boys look like they will soon be shaving, if they are not already doing so, and the physically developing Hermione particularly appears too old to be playing the part.

An interesting personality is Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) who has escaped from the prison Azkaban. Harry believes Sirius killed his parents, and he is told that Sirius is now coming to kill him. A major consideration in the plot is a rat constantly petted by Ron that occasionally turns into Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spell). Three other animals are key to the story: One is a combination horse with wings and owls head; the second is a ferocious black dog that carries off one of the children; and, the third is a werewolf.

I was not impressed with all the antics, but maybe it is unfair to have an 80-year-old critic appraise a children’s film. On the other hand, with my sister, Pat Thaler, I have written two children’s books, and we are now working on a third. The first, “Eddie, Harold’s Little Brother,” will be published in September by Putnam. To steal the title of a Norman Mailer book, possibly the greatest writer of my generation, don’t be upset with my “Advertisement for Myself.”

– Ed Koch