Koch on Film


By Ed Koch

“Paris” (-)

The film, written and directed by Cedric Klapisch, received excellent reviews. My expectation was that the City of Lights would be displayed in an exceptional manner.  Take it from me, it is not.  I don’t claim to know Paris well, but I have visited the city on several occasions.  In my opinion, its beauty is predicated on the splendor and uniformity of its architecture.  Unfortunately, the panoramic views from the sky in this film are so small that the magnificence of the city and that harmonized architecture is lost.

Pierre (Romain Duris) is a dancer in poor health due to a heart condition.  His divorced sister Elise (Juliette Binoche) and her three children move in with him to tend to his needs.  Elise decides to find a girlfriend for Pierre — who has his eye on a woman in an apartment across the street.  The most interesting character is Roland (Fabrice Luchini), a professor who stalks one of his students, Laetitia (Melanie Laurent).

With all of the advance publicity about “Paris,” I was surprised to feel so bored after having seen it.  The movie is a French version of Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts,” but Altman’s characters and stories are far more interesting.  The film is playing at the IFC Center on Sixth Avenue at West Third Street.  The theater has the most comfortable seats and often the best movies.  On this occasion, however, it was only the seats that I enjoyed.

Not Rated; 130 Minutes. In French with English subtitles. At IFC Center (323 Sixth Avenue, at West 3rd Street). For screening times, call 212-924-7771 or visit www.ifccenter.com. For the Box Office, 212-924-5246.

“Coco Before Chanel” (+)

The film is about the two Chanel sisters — Gabrielle (Audrey Tautou) and Adrienne (Marie Gillain) — who at a young age were placed in an orphanage by their father.  As young women, they both became courtesans and Cabaret entertainers.  One wicked song they perform about a dog resulted in Gabrielle receiving the dog’s name, Coco, as her own.

As courtesans, the young woman attract the attention of lovers.  Adrienne meets a baron and Gabrielle a French nobleman, Etienne (Benoit Poelvoorde).  From that point on we learn little of Adrienne’s life.  Coco now occupies center stage.  Coco’s affair with Etienne leads to a more intense affair with an Adonis-like Englishman known as Boy Capel (Alessandro Nivola).  Boy, in need of money, is already engaged to marry a wealthy Englishwoman.  While he will never marry Coco, their intense affair continues and becomes one of true love.

The movie depicts the period in which Coco is played against the dissolute French society comprised of Etienne’s friends — bawdy and ever searching for sensual pleasures.  While there is little display of naked bodies, the mood of sexual joy between Coco and Boy truly dominates the screen and gets your attention.

Tragedy enters Coco’s life.  In response, she becomes one of the world’s great designers of women’s clothing — whose creations are still standards and delight the eye.  Coco’s intelligence and indominibale spirit were her strength.  She was totally unafraid of violating conventions, and she never backed down.

“Coco Before Chanel” is not a great film, but it is a good one.  The show was sold out when I saw it on opening night at the Paris Theater, and the audience was comprised primarily of women.  The picture reminded me of “La Vie en Rose,” which depicts the life of Edith Piaf and includes her most famous songs.  If you haven’t seen that picture, get it on video.

PG-13, 105 minutes. In French, with English subtitles.)  At The Paris Theatre (4 W. 58th Street). For screening times, call (212) 688-3800 or visit www.theparistheatre.com. For the Box Office, call 212-593-4872.