By William Wolf

TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2007 (V)  Send This Review to a Friend

Although there was much that I liked among the showcased works at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, there were also my least appreciated films. One was “The Walker,” writer-director Paul Schrader’s opus about a society hanger-on whose associations lead to his being a murder suspect.

The film has pretensions of being sophisticated, with an entourage of names in the cast, apart from Woody Harrelson playing Carter Page III, including Lauren Bacall, Kristin Scott Thomas, Mary Beth Hurt, Willem Dafoe and others. Harrison does a good job, occasionally sounding like a caricature of Truman Capote as he regales the gossipy ladies.

The combination of scandal and efforts at suspense meanders along without the story taking hold in a gripping way. The result is an unsatisfying feeling despite the efforts of a strong cast.

Perhaps the most pretentious film of all was “I’m Not There,” Todd Haynes’ ambitious riff on the life and career of Bob Dylan. Six different actors play fictionalized versions of Dylan in assortment of settings and time frames, including Marcus Carl Franklin as a black “Dylan,” and even Cate Blanchett in one version.

The highly stylized film, which also stars Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Julianne Moore and David Cross, has its moments, but seems to go on forever and tends to grow boring. One admires Haynes’ nerve and vision, but at times one may wish for a straightforward portrait of the real Bob Dylan.

A more accomplished but nonetheless problematical film was the Coen brothers’ “No Country for Old Men.” There’s no question that Joel and Ethan Coen know how to make a strong movie, as their past record shows. This time around they have opted for a modern (1980) western set in Texas, steeped in violence and based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy.

Javier Bardem makes a fearsome villain, a psychopath who kills for the amusement of it as he tries to get his hands on drug money that another has made off with. He is thoroughly wicked and not the sort you would want to meet in a dark alley or anywhere else. Bardem makes the most of the character, and his portrayal of Anton Chigurth should linger as one of the screen’s most memorable bad guys.

Tommy Lee Jones plays a sheriff about to retire—if he lives—and others include Josh Brolin Woody Harrelson and Kelly Macdonald. The story certainly holds one’s attention, but there is so much violence, some on screen, some off, that one may recoil from the tale even if hooked by the expertise of the filmmakers.

After it is over, one can acknowledge how well made the film is, and yet say “So What? Did we need this?”

  

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