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FLICKS: “Koch”

Posted on 21 March 2013 by LeslieM

By Dave Montalbano


New York Mayors are colorful characters; Jimmy Walker, Firorello La Guardia and Rudy Guiliani come to mind. Each individual represented a distinct era of their time. The documentary Koch is a slice of 1970s and 1980s Manhattan history.

Mayor Ed Koch’s threeterm reign is a lesson in political reality. Opening with great 1970s Studio 54 disco images and closing with images of electrified Manhattan, we see a principled individual who does not change, while the world around him changes.

Director Neil Barsky presents his lion in winter.

Although he has been out of office since 1989, Ed Koch has remained a political influence as a book writer, talk show commentator and fellow movie columnist. A lifelong Democrat, Koch earned Republican respect because the mayor referred to himself as “a liberal with sanity.”

During the AIDS hysteria of the mid 1980s, Mayor Koch was presented as just another uncaring politician. Although the Koch Administration took steps in AIDS prevention for the city, the residue anger zapped Koch’s political mobility. Aggressive AIDS advocates also publicly questioned Mayor Koch’s sexual orientation.

Given this invasion into his privacy, Ed Koch gives a public response that is R rated. However, Koch is a very approachable documentary. In his eighties, we see Koch as a political power broker who is very family-orientated. He shares a Yom Kippur meal with his family and attempts to see his niece when she is performing in a New York concert. We see a man who takes 10 pills a day and who visits Trinity cemetery, his future resting place. Despite his Jewish heritage, Koch takes pride in being interred in “a W.A.S.P.” graveyard.

His honor died right after when the documentary Koch made its New York premier. This film is a celebration of life and is an entertaining piece of history.

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