1981, the New York Republican Party supported lifelong Democrat Ed Koch’s
re-election bid. He has since returned
the favor, periodically endorsing Republicans like Pres. George W. Bush, Sen.
Al D’Amato, Gov. George Pataki, and Andrew Eristoff. Throughout his public life, Mayor Koch has
been something of a maverick and he is always good for a lively quote. Neil Barsky documents the triumphs and
controversies of the iconic mayor in the simply but aptly titled Koch (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
one thing comes through loud and clear in Koch
it is the animosity between him and Mario Cuomo. It all harks back to 1977, when the Cuomo mayoral campaign allegedly gave winking approval to the guerrilla campaign urging New
Yorkers: “Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo.”
Shrewdly capturing the center and the right of the electorate, Koch ultimately
vanquished his Cuomo running as the Liberal Party candidate. However, questions about Koch’s private life
would persist. In fact, Barsky’s only
real misstep is the inordinate about of time spent on this is-he-or-isn’t-he
those New York transplants arriving during the Giuliani or Bloomberg eras, Koch is a briskly entertaining primer on
the City’s 1970’s and 1980’s history.
Recognizable names like Bess Myerson and Donald Manes, the late Queens
Borough President, whose corruption scandal also tarnished the Koch
administration, are put into full context.
There are also plenty of his “how’m I doing?” greatest hits and the
frequent media appearances that established a new template for New York mayors.
scored top-shelf access to Hizzoner, but the Koch of today comes across a bit
sad, clearly uncomfortable with his status as a New York political
graybeard-gadfly. Viewers can tell he
misses the action.
While Barsky examines his legacy warts-and-all, his
documentary will easily convince viewers Koch was the right no-nonsense man for
the job, like a pre-Giuliani Giuliani. Koch
is funnier though. Shrewdly, Barsky
emphasizes his humor whenever possible.
The results, gently prodded along by Mark Degli Antoni’s peppy
underscore, are compulsively watchable.
One of the most entertaining documentaries of the young year, so far,
for both political and pop culture junkies, Koch
the movie opens this Friday (2/1) in New York at the Lincoln Plaza uptown
and the Angelika Film Center downtown.
Labels: Documentary, Ed Koch, New York Cinema