Koch on Film

By Ed Koch

“The Girl Who Played With Fire” (+) 

This is the sequel to Stieg Larsson’s first novel, “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.” If you haven’t read that book or seen the film, I urge you to do so before seeing this picture. If you don’t, it will be difficult to follow the storyline — especially when the occasional flashback is shown. 

Now, a little recapitulation of the story in the first book and film. When Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) was a young girl, she saw her father savagely beat her mother. In her fury, she doused him with gasoline and set him on fire. She was institutionalized in a psychiatric facility as result of her action and, upon her release, was provided a guardian, Nils (Peter Andersson) — who beat and raped her. The first movie dealt with her revenge. 

In this second story, Lisbeth continues her relationship with Michael (Michael Nyqvist), and also has a female lover, Miriam (Yasmine Garbi). Michael (a reporter) and his associates are investigating an international prostitution ring. The plot contains lots of sex and violence, including the brutal acts of an enforcer who feels no pain because of a neurological condition — not even the pain of a taser-like instrument pressed against his genitals by Lisbeth. In addition, Lisbeth meets her father — a Soviet spymaster who defected to Sweden long ago and is now criminally involved with the prostitution ring. 

There is enough action in this film to fill five movies. Some of the incidents are unbelievable, but who cares? The movie, which is now a worldwide sensation, meets its hype more than halfway. To say that I was riveted to the screen would be an understatement. I saw the film at the Angelika Film Center. 

2 hours, 9 minutes. Rated R (suspense/thriller/drama). Screening at the Angelika Film Center (18 West Houston St., at Mercer St.). Call 212-995-2000 or visit www.angelikafilmcenter.com. 

“Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky” (+) 

This film received mixed reviews from other critics. I enjoyed it immensely and think it is well worth seeing. I would also urge you to rent the 2009 film “Coco Before Chanel” (starring Audrey Tautou). That picture is devoted to Coco’s youth and ends with the death of her true love, Boy Capel — an Englishman who died in an auto accident.  Seeing the earlier film will enhance your enjoyment of this movie. 

In the current film, Coco (Anna Mouglalis) is now a very attractive, middle-aged woman. She attends the premier of “Rite of Spring,” by Igor Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen) — which is accompanied by a Nijinsky ballet. The music and ballet are failures and the audience boos and walks out. 

Coco offers her Paris suburban home to Stravinksy, his wife Catherine (Elena Morozova), and their four children. They move in and an affair, initiated by Coco, soon begins. The poised Catherine, whose opinions regarding his music Stravinsky valued, more than holds her own. She demands that Igor end his affair or she will leave. 

Coco Chanel was a dynamo of creativity. Her clothing, every object in her home from furniture to wall coverings, and her creation of the iconic fragrance Chanel No. 5 were extraordinary — as was the way she dominated every situation. She had a spine of steel. 

Coco’s vibrant personality and beautiful clothing reminded me of the now deceased Brooke Astor. A little digression: When I was mayor, I introduced Mrs. Astor at an event and mentioned that she had donated $135 million to city charities. She was standing at my side and said, “No, Mayor, it’s at least $200 million with more to come.” She was an indomitable spirit — as was Coco. 

I think you will enjoy this film (which is in French, with English subtitles). I saw it at the Clearview Cinema in Montclair, New Jersey.

128 minutes. Rated R (drama/romance). Screening at, among other places, City Village East Cinema (181-189 Second Ave.). Call 212-529-6799 or visit www.villageeastcinema.com.