Tuesday, September 11, 2007

TIFF 2007: Day Five (America's Real Artist Laureate)

My last full day at the festival ran the gamut from an earnest but faltering first film to the sure hand of an accomplished master.

No Country for Old Men
I've got a review coming of this elsewhere, so for right now I'll say that despite not being a huge fan of the Coens nor of McCarthy, I was won over by the film. Javier Bardeem's performance will probably be argued about and over, but this is a function, I think of his character rather than his abilities...but more on that later. It does have some stylized violence, but it last the "isn't that clever" irony of Fargo or Blood Simple, and as a result the violence actually served the themes of the film rather than just its style. I'll probably see this again. Oh, and I was afraid, very afraid of Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Bell. I thought he'd be too smug. He wasn't. Jones is terrific.

When did You Last See Your Father
Earlier this month, I watched "The Young Lions" on cable just because I wanted to see Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift in the same film. If anyone watches "When did you Last See Your Father?' thirty years from now, it will probably be to see Jim Broadbent and Colin Firth together on screen. I love both, though Firth was limited by the film's flashback heavy scenes and Broadbent by the gamut of films about larger than life but flawed fathers in recent years. I confess the main thing I realized walking out of this film was just how good last year's "The Squid and the Whale" was at elevating the genre. Good to see Juliet Stevenson get some work, too. But a little too literary and a little too well trodden ground.

Battle in Seattle
I didn't like this film much, and I'll have to give more thought to why I didn't. I had a good talk with Doug Cummings over dinner, and one thing we discussed was the capacity of politically evangelical films to annoy rather than inspire. That's a bit too simplistic, though. This film is earnest but still too morally satisfied with itself. "Last week, people didn't know what GATT was" one anarchist says to another in a fine bit of self-referential criticism, "now...they still don't know what it is, but they know its bad."

I've got a review coming out soon, so I'll just say that I loved this film. Another great work by one of my favorite filmmakers. A new John Sayles film is a cause to rejoice. A few days ago, one guy introducing film had the temerity to suggest Alan Ball was threatening to make himself America's new poet laureate. Hah. Now John Sayles, on the other hand, is someone about whom that claim could be made without it sounding silly, in fact....

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