Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Moscow on the Hudson


I wonder if it will ever stop being painful to watch Robin Williams perform? Everybody dies, of course, and we have lost a lot of irreplaceable talents who died prematurely in my lifetime, but seldom one so shockingly unexpected. It is sad when someone ODs, but we’re sort of used to it. Suicide? Unthinkable! He was so funny!

Well, anyway, this is one of my favorites of his movies. He is a saxophone player in a Russian circus that travels to the exotic, weird world of New York City, and during a thirty-minute shopping trip in Bloomie’s he defects, almost accidentally. Throughout the movie most of the people he meets are from somewhere else. Still it’s hard to adjust. In Moscow any time you saw a line of people standing in the snow, you joined it, and only asked what was being sold when you were standing there. Whatever it was, you wanted it. Toilet paper was like fine linen. Shoes? From Czechoslovakia? How many pairs can I have? Not in my size? That’s okay, I’ll resell them. In New York there are so many choices just of coffee, dozens and dozens of brands, that he suffered a panic attack in the supermarket aisle, unable to decide.

The movie makes me feel good about America. Sure, we have our problems, and always will, but the scene where about a hundred people are taking the oath of allegiance always sort of chokes me up. This is a good-spirited movie, and damn it, we need those from time to time.

The only sadness here is a personal one. Anthony “Tony” Cortino was one of my best friends on the set of Millennium. He plays one of the store clerks in Bloomingdale’s, the gay one. He worked on many quality movies, like Thelma and Louise, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Wall Street, and Prizzi’s Honor. In the credits he is listed as a “visual consultant.” What he did mostly was hair and make-up, chief of department. He was a delightful guy, funny and warm, and when nothing was happening on the set (which, in movie-making, is most of the time) we hung out along with a few others. Sadly, he died in 1993. AIDS. Shit.