Sunday, September 16, 2007

post toronto docurment dump part one

Cassandra's Dream
The Weinstein Company, 108mins, PG-13

Written and Directed
by Woody Allen

In the fifth year of his exile in Europe, Woody Allen has decided to give up on comedy. He's not in this particular film, and one can tell why. This is a “Greek Tragedy” in which not a single joke is cracked, and things go from bad to good to worse. He's tried murder before, but he's not Alfred Hitchcock, and while the genius of his direction is there, the writing isn't. He's been tired for years, and if it were not for the casting director, he would be in real trouble.

Terry(Colin Farrell) and Ian Blaine(Ewan McGregor) are brothers, Ian works for his parents(John Benfield and Clare Higgins) in their restaurant and doesn't like it at all, while Terry is an auto mechanic with a major gambling problem. On a rare winning streak, Terry manages to get enough money to pay off a sailboat named “Cassandra's Dream” and that gives them a place to relive their youth, and for Ian to romance women, especially the lovely Angela Stark(Hayley Atwell), an actress with an eye for bigger things.

Lurking in the background is the guy's Uncle Howard(Tom Wilkinson), a fabulously wealthy plastic surgeon and philanthropist, and the apple of his sister's eye. It just so happens that he's going to be in town when Terry has just blown £90 thousand on poker and needs a loan forthwith, and Ian has a business deal pending, so Uncle Howard agrees with one condition, a certain Martin Burns(Phil Davis) is going to testify before a commission, and possibly get Howard thrown in jail for a very long time, and thus Burns should be gotten rid of as soon as possible.

What follows is success and tragedy. Allen manages to get some excellent performances, especially McGregor and Farrell, who give one of the best performances of their careers, and a lovely little supporting role by Sally Hawkins as Terry's live-in girlfriend Kate, but he skips any semblance of dark humor, as he used to great effect in earlier films. Unless you're a “completeist” this isn't worth bothering with.

I'm Not There
The Weinstein Company, 135mins, R

Written and Directed
by Todd Haynes

They called Bob Dylan the “chameleon of rock and roll” during much of his career, when he changed his style from folk to hard rock to something else, changing his religion and all. So it when Todd Haynes came to him with an idea to do a fictionalized biopic with half a dozen or so people playing him at various phases of his life, Dylan agreed. This is, believe it or not, an authorized version.

It's not exactly Bob Dylan, of course, it's a slew of people named
Jack/Pastor John(Christian Bale), Jude(Cate Blanchett), Woody (Marcus Carl Franklin), Billy(Richard Gere), Robbie(Heath Ledger) and Arthur(Ben Whishaw), all of whom manage to have some sort of relation to a part of Dylan's personality and career.

Going back and forth in time, from when Woody, who's a black child riding the rails in 1959, to Billy, who's living in a Western fantasyland in a timeless present, Haynes tries to mine what Dylan is supposed to be at various times in his life, and to some extent succeeds. I say to SOME extent, because this is an uneven film, and the parts with Christian Bale and Heath Leger barely are touched and the part where Ben Whishaw is married to a version of Dylan's wife Sarah named Claire(Charlotte Gainsbourg) seems like it comes from another movie. However, the main focus is Woody Guthrie the Black kid, and Cate Blanchette as the electrified Dylan.

The Blanchett segments take up the greatest part of the film, when s/he's hanging out with the Beatles [the best gag in the film] and sparring with Edie Sedgewick clone Coco Rivington(Michelle Williams), poet Allen Ginsberg(David Cross), and a British journalist(Bruce Greenwood), who's out to expose Jude for what he really is. Not Andy Warhol with real hair, but something more sinister. This really brings together time and place, Still there's a disconnect, especially with Charlotte Ganesbourg's segment, where the Dylan clone barely shows up, and the Richard Gere one, which has nothing to do with anything and is clearly annoying.

Clearly Kate Blanchette's going to get all sorts of nominations for her brilliant performance here, and it's worth the price of admission, although one might leave shaking one's head perplexed, and I guess that's what Dylan himself would want.

No Country for Old Men
Miramax Films, 122mins, R

Written and Directed by
Ethan Coen and Joel Coen

The last time the Coen brothers made a movie it was a version of Homer's “Odyssey,” this time it's a shaggy dog story of a different sort, a cartoonish chase across Texas by a bunch of slightly loopy people trying to get a suitcase full of money. Just up their alley.

The film begins with an unnamed sheriff's deputy(Zach Hopkins) arresting a mysterious stranger, who we later find out is named
Anton Chigurh(Javier Bardem) who is carrying a tank of compressed air. Once they get to the jail, Anton shows us what the tank is for, and we cut to a certain Llewelyn Moss(Josh Brolin) hunting in the desert, when he comes across the tattered remains of what would have made one hell of a cinematic shootout. Apparently, it was over drugs, and there's the aforementioned unattended suitcase full of money, which he takes, and an extra dying of thirst. Taking pity on the fellow, he tells his wife Carla Jean Moss(Kelly MacDonald) he's going to do something really stupid [it's called 'idiot plotting'], which is to return to the scene of the crime and give the extra some water. But of course, there's Anton and a some extras waiting for him. So begins the chase.

Fortunately for Anton, the money has a radio transmitter in it, and he goes around blowing people's brains in with his compressed air device while Llewellen heads off into the sunset in a failed attempt to get away. Meanwhile, the people who own the drugs and the money(Stephen Root and some extras) hire a man called Wells(Woody Harrelson), to find Llewellen before Anton could get him while Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) and his remaining deputy Wendell(Garret Dillahunt) try to figure out what's going on.

We think that the introduction of a whole bunch of what appears to be crucial characters would lead somewhere, but it doesn't. There are lots of red herrings that appear out of nowhere and return from whence they came, both confusing and infuriating the audience. The ending, while from the novel, makes things even worse. As was said, this is a shaggy dog story, and the punch line is just as vapid.

The acting is fine, the Coens always manage to get the top of the profession to get into their films, and the dialogue is punchy, especially when it seems that the film is actually going somewhere.

If you're a fan of the brothers, by all means, go for it, but this is not the best way to blow an afternoon.

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