Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Koch

Lively doc observes a critical period in New York City history.

Jan 29, 2013

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1371008-Koch_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Made with the former mayor's cooperation but allowing ample screen time to those with harsh things to say about him, Neil Barsky's Koch offers as comprehensive a picture as it can in 94 minutes of a man whose tenure merits a miniseries. Small-screen appeal is strong, and specialized theatrical exhibition will draw its fair share of New Yorkers and New Yorkers-at-heart.

Framing the story with scenes from the recent past, Barsky finds the octogenarian still visible in New York City's political life: stumping in 2010 for everything from local assembly candidates to the gubernatorial contest, being toasted by current mayor Michael Bloomberg, having a bridge renamed for him. It isn't long before a witness to one of these honors takes issue with it, reminding viewers of the problems Koch had with many black constituents.

Barsky leaps back to 1977, with images of a Big Apple on the brink of collapse. There's Ed Koch, P.A. set up on street corners, claiming he's the best of the seven brave souls hoping to become mayor of the imperiled metropolis. Mixing plentiful period footage and interviews with participants including political strategist David Garth, the film sees how the outspoken Koch won the job, then follows as he quickly earned a reputation for nerve.

Koch stares down the transit union, daring to venture among the commuters whose subway rides were replaced by hours-long walks to work; he goes to D.C. to head off the city's bankruptcy. We see one of his most controversial acts, the closing of Harlem's Sydenham Hospital, which he now admits was a mistake—though whether he means it was immoral or simply a strategic error is unclear.

Some of the film's talking heads suggest the latter. One black leader defends Koch from charges of racism, accusing him instead of across-the-board opportunism. Koch's problems with the gay community, which accused him of exacerbating the AIDS crisis, get equal attention. Barsky lingers on the issue of the mayor's sexuality—many believe he's a closeted gay man whose foot-dragging on AIDS resulted from fear of being outed—but Koch maintains his stance when the director asks about it point-blank: "It's none of your fucking business." (Gay, straight or asexual, Koch's use of former Miss America Bess Myerson as a photo-op companion during his first campaign was shameless.)

Amid the critical voices, though, Koch finds much to praise—particularly in the administration's massive spending on housing, which one interviewee says is as responsible for lowered crime rates as any of the controversial police tactics that earned Rudy Giuliani renown in later years.
The Hollywood Reporter


Film Review: Koch

Lively doc observes a critical period in New York City history.

Jan 29, 2013

-By John DeFore


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1371008-Koch_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Made with the former mayor's cooperation but allowing ample screen time to those with harsh things to say about him, Neil Barsky's Koch offers as comprehensive a picture as it can in 94 minutes of a man whose tenure merits a miniseries. Small-screen appeal is strong, and specialized theatrical exhibition will draw its fair share of New Yorkers and New Yorkers-at-heart.

Framing the story with scenes from the recent past, Barsky finds the octogenarian still visible in New York City's political life: stumping in 2010 for everything from local assembly candidates to the gubernatorial contest, being toasted by current mayor Michael Bloomberg, having a bridge renamed for him. It isn't long before a witness to one of these honors takes issue with it, reminding viewers of the problems Koch had with many black constituents.

Barsky leaps back to 1977, with images of a Big Apple on the brink of collapse. There's Ed Koch, P.A. set up on street corners, claiming he's the best of the seven brave souls hoping to become mayor of the imperiled metropolis. Mixing plentiful period footage and interviews with participants including political strategist David Garth, the film sees how the outspoken Koch won the job, then follows as he quickly earned a reputation for nerve.

Koch stares down the transit union, daring to venture among the commuters whose subway rides were replaced by hours-long walks to work; he goes to D.C. to head off the city's bankruptcy. We see one of his most controversial acts, the closing of Harlem's Sydenham Hospital, which he now admits was a mistake—though whether he means it was immoral or simply a strategic error is unclear.

Some of the film's talking heads suggest the latter. One black leader defends Koch from charges of racism, accusing him instead of across-the-board opportunism. Koch's problems with the gay community, which accused him of exacerbating the AIDS crisis, get equal attention. Barsky lingers on the issue of the mayor's sexuality—many believe he's a closeted gay man whose foot-dragging on AIDS resulted from fear of being outed—but Koch maintains his stance when the director asks about it point-blank: "It's none of your fucking business." (Gay, straight or asexual, Koch's use of former Miss America Bess Myerson as a photo-op companion during his first campaign was shameless.)

Amid the critical voices, though, Koch finds much to praise—particularly in the administration's massive spending on housing, which one interviewee says is as responsible for lowered crime rates as any of the controversial police tactics that earned Rudy Giuliani renown in later years.
The Hollywood Reporter
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

The Congress
Film Review: The Congress

Part live-action, part cornea-searing animation, this cinematic overload is ambitious but ultimately fatigues as it plays with the intriguing notion of a fading Hollywood star selling rights so her cyberspace avatar can rise to superstardom and stay forever young in virtual reality. Flashy animation and cynical stabs at celebrity culture and movie-studio finagling keep things lively for a while. More »

The Last of Robin Hood
Film Review: The Last of Robin Hood

Serviceable vehicle for a salacious story. More »

Last Weekend
Film Review: Last Weekend

A sort of modern Chekhovian study of family tensions over a country weekend, this indie drama is very pretty to look at and at times disarming, but needed more punch. More »

The Notebook
Film Review: The Notebook

An aloof adaptation of Agota Kristof's best-seller that's technically impressive but precludes audience identification. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Film Review: Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Neither significantly better nor worse than its predecessor, the belated Sin City sequel is more of a repeat, rather than a continuation, of the original. More »

If I Stay
Film Review: If I Stay

Delivers as promised. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here