Thursday, April 18, 2013

Koch (Rhoades)

“Koch” Makes
Timely Run

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Ironically, “Koch” -- the new documentary by Neil Barsky -- opened on February 1, 2013, the day Ed Koch died.
This is Barsky’s first film. As a Wall Street Journal reporter, he became fascinated with the career of Edward Irving Koch, who served as mayor of New York City for three consecutive terms from 1978 to 1989.
I lived in New York during Koch’s reign. It wasn’t a bad one from many perspectives. Known as the People’s Mayor, his familiar “How am I doing?” marked his earnestness to deliver on his campaign promises. But a series of scandals undermined his claim that he would run a patronage-free city government.
Koch was a colorful character, who went on to be a political commentator, movie critic, children’s book author, and judge on TV’s “People’s Court.” He also served as an adjunct professor at New York University, overlapping with my own years as an adjunct professor at NYU.
This film examines Koch’s political career, including “a fiercely competitive 1977 election, the 1980 transit strike, the burgeoning AIDS epidemic, landmark housing renewal initiatives, and an irreparable municipal corruption scandal.”
Candid interviews and archival footage give us a closer look at a dynamic public figure who led a very private life. A lifelong bachelor, he was accused of being a “closeted gay man,” although he declared himself a heterosexual and squared former Miss America Bess Myerson around town.
“Koch” is currently playing at the Tropic Cinema. Not only does it deliver a fascinating portrait of the politician but also offers a snapshot of the Big Apple during a tumultuous period that began with the city’s insolvency and ended with an economic boom.
Whether you agreed with Ed Koch’s paradoxical politics (a “law and order” platform mixed with “liberal” policies), you can’t deny his love for New York City. His tombstone reads, in part, “He fiercely defended the City of New York, and he fiercely loved its people.”
This, by the way, is a How Am I Doing Films production.

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