Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Incredible Hulk

No, this movie wasn't at the film festival, but on the second last day I got a note from my parking lot that they would not be open the next day and would be closing for a week. Also, it was hard to miss the cables strung along the sidewalk around Yonge and Gerrard when going between the Ryerson Theatre and the Elgin Theatre.

But the most difficult thing to miss was the Apollo Theatre being "built" just south of Gerrard on Yonge Street.

This was all in aid of five days of shooting of a replacement for the Ang Lee version of The Incredible Hulk which was to be shot here in the coming week.

On Saturday, the parking lot where I used to park was full of production trailers and two New York City buses, one sadly burned out ... and the Apollo Theatre was advertising the Friday and Saturday appearance of the Harlem Gospel Singers.

More details at the IMDB page.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

This was my last of 35 movies at this year's Toronto Film Festival. I so wanted to like it. The acting was very good ... and what a cast. But Sidney Lumet tricked me.

The first scene is an extended sex scene between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Marisa Tomei. Then the opening credits roll. Then we see a scene titled: "The Robbery." After that, we go back and forth in time as the story is told and more information about the robbery is revealed.

It was lots of fun trying to figure out what had really happened. As more was revealed in this out-of-order manner, the film was fun to watch and constantly surprising.

Then the last few scenes unrolled and the whole thing fell apart for me. The promise of the first scene was never realized. It was a red herring. We'd been had ... just like the scheming characters in the movie.

It left a bad taste in my mouth and I'm not sure the convoluted story-telling was necessary.

Director: Sidney Lumet
Country: USA
Year: 2007
Runtime: 123 minutes
Music: Carter Burwell
Principal Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, Albert Finney, Rosemary Harris

Then She Found Me

My second love story of the day, and one of my favorite movies of the festival.

What's not to love with a cast that included Helen Hunt, Bette Midler, Colin Firth, and Matthew Broderick. Each was given a meaty enough role. It's all about Helen's life and the twists and turns in it.

Not wishing to give any of it away, I do have to say that the very last scene -- which all American movies seem to want to have so they can tell us what happened to all the characters after the part of the story we've just seen -- was entirely superfluous and stupid.

Director: Helen Hunt
Country: USA
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 100 minutes
Principal Cast: Helen Hunt, Bette Midler, Colin Firth, Matthew Broderick

Death Defying Acts

The night before the end of the festival, my friend Jeri asked me if I'd seen any love stories. I checked my list and found told her, no, I hadn't seen any. Then on this last day I saw two. Both she would like.

This one was the story of Harry Houdini, played by the fabulous-looking Guy Pearce, and his possible affair with a psychic, played with a proper Scottish accent by Catherine Zeta-Jones. But the star of the movie is the psychic's daughter, played by a young Saoirse Ronan.

She tells the story of Houdini's visit to Edinburgh and what happens there. Stunning visuals, scenery, and acting. A real period piece.

It was introduced by the director who told us she knew more about Harry Houdini than she would ever be able to use in the movie. It was not a true story but based upon what might have happened.

Harry's fatal visit to Montreal is thrown in at the end for good measure and a melodramatic twist.

Director: Gillian Armstrong
Country: United Kingdom/Australia
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 97 minutes
Principal Cast: Guy Pearce, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Timothy Spall, Saoirse Ronan
TIFF07 Link

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Walker

I have mixed feelings about this one, but in the end I can't recommend it.

It's fun to watch and the dialogue is good, but I just don't buy the entire premise ... or Woody Harrelson as a gay man who escorts rich Washington women to events in the city.

And then there is the murder story that is supposed to be a thriller. In the end nobody really cares, including the characters to whom it is happening.

None of the relationships are fully developed. Does her husband love her or doesn't he? Does she love her husband or doesn't she? Does he love his lover or doesn't he? Does his lover love him or doesn't he? The answer to all these questions is, "Who cares?" The actors aren't letting us know and so everyone is on his or her own ... including the audience.

If you read the TIFF description linked below it says: At night, Page goes home to his (discreetly discussed) lover, a photographer named Emek (Moritz Bleibtreu) to cattily regale him with the day’s activities.

Huh? Either this scene didn't make the final cut, or I fell asleep and didn't notice.

Watch it on DVD.

Director: Paul Schrader
Country: USA/United Kingdom
Year: 2007
Runtime: 107 minutes
Principal Cast: Woody Harrelson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lauren Bacall, Lily Tomlin, Ned Beatty, Willem Dafoe, Moritz Bleibtreu, Mary Beth Hurt

I'm Not There

This is the famous movie about Bob Dylan with six actors playing the part. Well, not quite. They are each playing parts of Bob Dylan's character, but each under a different name.

Todd Haynes introduced the movie and told us that Bob Dylan had so many personas that his friends would say he had transformed himself into another person if they hadn't seen him in a year or so. And each of the characters are interesting in their own right, but trying to see Bob Dylan over and over in each actor's characterization becomes fatiguing after a while.

I have to admit that I left half an hour before the movie finished because I didn't want to miss my next movie ... and I was fatigued, as mentioned above.

My favourite portrayal of one of Bob Dylan's character traits was done by Cate Blanchett as Jude ... with the young Woody -- the first actor in the role -- coming in a close second.

Director: Todd Haynes
Country: USA
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 135 minutes
Principal Cast: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Julianne Moore, David Cross

Reservation Road

It starts off well ... the story progresses and we get to meet the characters and feel for their situations.

But at a certain point, it all falls apart. People's characters change ... the plot thickens and congeals ... and in the end, it is not a very satisfying movie.

Director: Terry George
Country: USA
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 102 minutes
Format: Colour/35mm
Rating: 14A
Cast & Crew
Production Company: Nick Wechsler Productions/Miracle Pictures
Executive Producer: Dean M. Leavitt, Gina Renick
Producer: Nick Wechsler, A. Kitman Ho
Screenplay: John Burnham Schwartz, Terry George, based on the novel by John Burnham Schwartz
Cinematographer: John Lindley
Principal Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Connelly, Mira Sorvino

Operation Filmmaker

This was an fascinating documentary about an Iraqi filmmaker who was offered the chance to work on a movie being made in Eastern Europe by Liev Schreiber ... and follows him after this experience and for another year or so. But the most interesting part of it was the story of the making of the documentary. It asks the question: "How involved does a documentary maker become with the subject of the documentary?"

The director spoke after the movie and said she had to get involved with the subject of her documentary because "you can't watch an accident about to happen and not do something." A side theme of the movie had to do with the relationship between a person receiving donations and the donor.

If you have a chance to see this ... do so. The YouTube video below shows selected scenes and tells part of the story.

Director: Nina Davenport
Country: USA
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 92 minutes
Producer: Nina Davenport, David Schisgall
Cinematographer: Nina Davenport
Editor: Aaron Kuhn, Nina Davenport
Sound: Dave Ellinwood
Music: Sheldon Mirowitz

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Avant que je t'oublie

No more need be said. Forget it.

Director: Jacques Nolot
Country: France
Year: 2007
Language: French
Runtime: 108 minutes
Screenplay: Jacques Nolot
Cinematographer: Josée Deshaies
Editor: Sophie Reine
Production Designer: Gaelle Guitard
Sound: J.L. Ughetto
Music: Gustave Malher
Principal Cast: Jacques Nolot

Battle for Haditha

A second take on the war in Iraq, this time told in more cinematic fashion. We again learn something about the lives of the people on both sides of the battle and we see a dramatic re-creation of an incident that took place on the road in Haditha, Iraq. (Filmed again in Jordan.)

The incident: In November 2005, a roadside IED (Improvised Explosive Device) killed one US Marine and wounded two others. Enraged fellow Marines exacted revenge by killing twenty-four Iraqis: men, women and children. Four Marines were subsequently charged with murder.

It is very chilling to see that the men being put in danger have such little leadership and then are blamed when they react to the stress.

The Q & A after the film included the director and two of the actors in the film who were actually veterans of the Iraq war: Eric Mehalacopoulos and Elliot Ruiz (pictured right).

Director: Nick Broomfield
Country: United Kingdom
Year: 2007
Language: English, Arabic
Runtime: 93 minutes
Screenplay: Nick Broomfield, Marc Hoeferlin, Anna Telford
Cinematographer: Mark Wolf
Principal Cast: Elliot Ruiz, Falah Abraheem Flayeh, Yasmine Hanani, Duraid A. Ghaieb, Eric Mehalacopoulos

Blood Brothers

I actually enjoyed watching this one which was a thirties gangster movie that takes place in Shanghai. Production values were great. Cinematography was great.

But it was a bit overwrought and it was sometimes difficult to follow what exactly was going on or to tell which character was on the screen at a time because the three main actors all looked so much alike.

Director: Alexi Tan
Country: Taiwan/China/Hong Kong, China
Year: 2007
Language: Mandarin
Runtime: 95 minutes
Format: Colour/35mm
Rating: 14A
Cast & Crew
Production Company: CMC Entertainment/Lion Rock Productions/Sil-Metropole Organization
Executive Producer: Huang Chinwen, Song Dai, Roger Lee
Producer: John Woo, Terence Chang
Screenplay: Alexi Tan, Jiang Dan, Tony Chan
Principal Cast: Daniel Wu, Chang Chen, Shu Qi, Liu Ye, Lulu Li, Sun Honglei, Tony Yang

Paranoid Park

Gus Van Sant strikes out with this story of teenage skate boarders.

He takes us back and forth in time the way he did in Elephant but this time there are no characters who really grab your attention or interest long enough to make you care. And the time travel only serves to confuse.

Director: Gus Van Sant
Country: France
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 90 minutes
Format: Colour/35mm
Rating: 14A
Cast & Crew
Production Company: MK2
Producer: Marin Karmitz, Nathanaël Karmitz
Screenplay: Gus Van Sant, based on the novel by Blake Nelson
Cinematographer: Christopher Doyle, Rain Kathy Li
Editor: Gus Van Sant
Production Designer: John Pearson-Denning
Sound: Leslie Shatz
Principal Cast: Gabe Nevins, Dan Liu, Jake Miller, Taylor Momsen, Lauren McKinney

The Take

John Leguizamo plays the part of a bank guard who gets in over his head in a robbery. He's a lot smarter than he looks.

Good story and good acting but some parts of the story (co-incidence and sudden technical expertise) are a bit difficult to swallow.

Director: Brad Furman
Country: USA
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 96 minutes
Screenplay: Josh Pate, Jonas Pate
Cinematographer: Lukas Ettlin
Editor: Edie Ichioka
Production Designer: Charisse Cardenas
Sound: Manvel Barsegayan
Music: Chris Hajian
Principal Cast: John Leguizamo, Tyrese Gibson, Bobby Cannavale, Rosie Perez
TIFF07 Link

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

And along came the tourists

Story about a young man who chose to do his national service at Auschwitz in the present day.

Who are the people telling the stories? Who are the people who should be telling the stories? Who are the people that want to hear the stories?

Director: Robert Thalheim
Country: Germany
Year: 2007
Language: German, Polish, English
Runtime: 85 minutes
Screenplay: Robert Thalheim
Cinematographer: Yoliswa Gärtig
Editor: Stefan Kobe
Production Designer: Michal Galinski, Rita-Maria Hallekamp
Sound: Detlef A. Schitto, Anton K. Feist
Music: Anton K. Feist, Uwe Bassenz
Principal Cast: Alexander Fehling, Ryszard Ronczewski, Barbara Wysocka, Piotr Rogucki



Brian Da Palma sure knows how to make a movie. A very interesting format was used for this since the funding came with the stipulation that the film be made in high-definition video.

Security cameras, home movies, and YouTube videos are used to tell the story. Another one that looks more like a docu-drama than a straight film.

Powerful story, powerful acting, unforgettable scenes. (Based on a true story?)

Director: Brian De Palma
Country: USA
Year: 2007
Language: English, French
Runtime: 90 minutes
Executive Producer: Todd Wagner, Mark Cuban, Gretchen McGowan, Laird Adamson
Producer: Jennifer Weiss, Simone Urdl, Jason Kliot, Joana Vicente
Screenplay: Brian De Palma
Cinematographer: Jonathon Cliff
Editor: Bill Pankow
Production Designer: Phillip Barker
Sound: Paula Fairfield
Principal Cast: Izzy Diaz, Daniel Stewart Sherman, Patrick Carroll, Mike Figueroa, Ty Jones

Chop Shop

Another “real-time” docu-drama, this one filmed in a section of Queens, New York where acres of auto-repair shops vie for business.

The star is a twelve-year-old charismatic first-time actor. The story is a rambling ode to making it in the midst of chaos. It’s sometimes difficult to tell who are the actors and who are the extras.

Director: Ramin Bahrani
Country: USA
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 84 minutes
Format: Colour/35mm
Rating: 14A
Cast & Crew
Production Company: Big Beach/ Muskat Filmed Properties/ Noruz Films
Executive Producer: Peter Saraf
Producer: Jeb Brody, Marc Turtletaub, Lisa Muskat
Screenplay: Bahareh Azimi, Ramin Bahrani
Cinematographer: Michael Simmonds
Editor: Ramin Bahrani
Production Designer: Richard Wright
Sound: Christof Gebert
Music: M. Lo
Principal Cast: Alejandro Polanco, Isamar Gonzales, Rob Sowulski, Carlos Zapata, Ahmad Razvi

It's a Free World

Ken Loach once again tells a story of the working class. Not as far-ranging as last year’s Wind that Shakes the Barley, but still a good story with great truthful acting.

The film sheds light on the plight of European immigrants -- legal and illegal -- and the trials and tribulations they go through while trying to find work and subsist in the UK.

Director: Ken Loach
Country: United Kingdom/Italy/Germany/Spain
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 96 minutes
Production Company: Sixteen Films Ltd.
Executive Producer: Ulrich Felsberg
Producer: Rebecca O'Brien
Screenplay: Paul Laverty
Cinematographer: Nigel Willoughby
Editor: Jonathan Morris
Production Designer: Fergus Clegg
Sound: Ray Beckett
Music: George Fenton
Principal Cast: Kierston Wareing, Juliet Ellis, Leslaw Zurek

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Shake Hands with the Devil

A different take on the story of Romeo Dallaire and the events in Rwanda. I have not seen the documentary or read the book.

Roy Dupuis was spectacular in the role. It is a Canadian story after all.

Director: Roger Spottiswoode
Country: Canada
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 113 minutes
Production Company: Halifax Film/ Barna-Alper Productions Inc./ Seville Productions
Executive Producer: David Reckziegel, Marty Katz, Steven Silver, Neil Tabatznik
Producer: Laszlo Barna, Michael Donovan
Screenplay: Michael Donovan, based on the book by Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire
Cinematographer: Miroslaw Baszak
Editor: Michel Arcand
Production Designer: Lindsey Hermer-Bell
Sound: Eric Fitz
Music: David Hirschfelder
Principal Cast: Roy Dupuis, James Gallanders, Michel Mongeau, Deborah Kara Unger, Owen Lebakeng Sejake

The Girl in the Park

Sigourney Weaver plays the part of a woman who can’t get over the loss of her daughter even after fifteen years. Kate Bosworth plays the part of a young woman who appears fifteen years later and helps tie up a few loose threads … or does she?

Thoroughly engrossing story and acting. Some might think it a bit melodramatic, but not me.

Director: David Auburn
Country: USA
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 109 minutes
Screenplay: David Auburn
Cinematographer: Stuart Dryburgh
Editor: Kristina Boden
Production Designer: Kelly McGehee
Sound: Stephan Barden, Richard Murphy
Music: Theodore Shapiro
Principal Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Kate Bosworth, Alessandro Nivola, Keri Russell, Elias Koteas

Breakfast with Scot

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie about a gay couple who become “foster” parents to a young boy … well-acted all around, though the standout was the young actor who played Scot.

Rather predictable ending but I cried anyway. It’s a Christmas story, by the way.

Director: Laurie Lynd
Breakfast with Scot
Country: Canada
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 95 minutes
Screenplay: Sean Raycraft, based on the novel by Michael Downing
Cinematographer: David Makin
Music: Robert Carli
Principal Cast: Tom Cavanaugh, Ben Shenkman, Noah Bernett

The Voyeurs

This was part of the Masters section but you could have fooled me.

Sort of interesting story but really, it was not worth the two hours shy of five minutes.

Director: Buddhadeb Dasgupta
Country: India
Year: 2007
Language: Bengali
Runtime: 115 minutes
Screenplay: Buddhadeb Dasgupta
Cinematographer: Sunny Joseph
Editor: Amitava Dasgupta
Production Designer: Swapan Kumar Ghosh
Sound: Anup Mukhopadhyay
Music: Biswadeb Dasgupta
Principal Cast: Prosenjit Chatterjee, Sameera Reddy, Amitav Bhattacharya

Monday, September 10, 2007

Encounters at the End of the World

Werner Herzog is a wonder. This film takes a look at the people who inhabit the most southerly part of our world. They are individuals for certain. What brought them here? Why do they stay?

Oh, and there is one very touching penguin scene that you won’t see in a Walt Disney film. This movie is worth seeing if you get the chance.

Director: Werner Herzog
Country: USA
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 99 minutes
Format: Colour/HDCAM
Rating: PG
Production Company: Discovery Films
Executive Producer: Erik Nelson, Dave Harding, Phil Fairclough, Julian Hobbs
Producer: Henry Kaiser
Cinematographer: Peter Zeitlinger
Editor: Joe Bini
Sound: Werner Herzog
Music: Henry Kaiser, David Lindley

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

I found this one a fun film to see … though it’s been getting terrible reviews and I suppose if you actually knew the history which this is supposed to be telling you’d be upset with the “cinematic licence” taken with the fact. I thoroughly enjoyed it from the worst seat in the house … over to the side and partly obstructed.

I suppose I should admit that I’m a fan of both Cate Blanchett and Clive Owen and could watch either of them read the phone book and be satisfied.

Director: Shekhar Kapur
Country: United Kingdom
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 114 minutes
Screenplay: William Nicholson, Michael Hirst
Cinematographer: Remi Adefarasin
Editor: Jill Bilcock
Production Designer: Guy Hendrix Dyas
Sound: Mark Auguste
Music: Craig Armstrong, Ar Rahman
Principal Cast: Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Clive Owen, Rhys Ifans, Jordi Molla, Abbie Cornish, Samantha Morton

American Venus

Another look at America’s gun culture and Canada’s lack thereof.

A mixed up piece of cinema with no redeeming qualities that I could see.

Director: Bruce Sweeney
Country: Canada
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 81 minutes
Screenplay: Bruce Sweeney
Cinematographer: David Pelletier
Editor: Julian Clarke
Production Designer: Tony Devenyi
Sound: Anke Bakker, Jeff Carter
Music: James Jandrisch
Principal Cast: Rebecca De Mornay, Jane McGregor, Matt Craven, Nicholas Lea

No Country for Old Men

What a great movie this is. If you liked History of Violence last year, you'll love this one. Yes, there is violence and also blood, guts, and gore -- but it is a Coen brothers movie after all.

It's a great thriller ... and a story of the chased and the chasers. All the regular actors play their roles to perfection ... and then there are always those lesser-known or unknown actors with the unforgettable faces that the Coen brothers always seem to be able to find.

There are lots of laughs and surprises to be had. All the characters try to outwit the others. Although Josh Brolin may first come across as a slow-witted character, his ingenuity shows there's more him that you see at first glance.

I couldn't for the life of me figure out what was the meaning of the final scene ... can anyone help? Did those dreams mean something?

A warning -- it's not for the faint of heart. (But, remember, it's only a movie.)

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Country: USA
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 123 minutes
Production Company: Scott Rudin Productions/ Mike Zoss Productions
Executive Producer: Robert Graf, Mark Roybal
Producer: Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Screenplay: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy
Music: Carter Burwell
Principal Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, Kelly Macdonald

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Jihad for Love

I can’t figure out why people would want to be part of a religion that doesn’t want them.

This is a film about gay Muslims.

Director: Parvez Sharma
Country: USA/United Kingdom/France/Germany/Australia
Year: 2007
Language: English, Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Hindi, Turkish, French
Runtime: 81 minutes
Production Company: Halal Films/ ZDF-Arte/ Channel 4/ Logo/ SBS-Australia/ Katahdin Foundation/ Realise
Executive Producer: Michael Huffington, Andrew Herwitz, Linda Saetre, Eileen Opatut, Dave Mace
Producer: Sandi DuBowski
Screenplay: Parvez Sharma
Cinematographer: Parvez Sharma, Berke Bas
Editor: Juliet Weber
Sound: Ira Spiegel
Music: Sussan Deyhim, Richard Horowitz

The Band's Visit

The Alexandria Ceremonial Police Band takes the wrong bus and ends up in a small town in the desert.

They interact with the residents of the town and learn something about each other and themselves.

This very touching and funny film was one of the standouts for me at this festival.

Great performances all around.

Director: Eran Kolirin
Country: Israel
Year: 2007
Language: Hebrew, English, Arabic
Runtime: 89 minutes
Principal Cast: Sasson Gabai, Ronit Elkabetz, Saleh Bakri, Khalifa Natour, Imad Jabarin

Darfur Now

Very well-done documentary on the situation in Darfur, Sudan. Although the facts presented in the film make this an educational exercise ... and the facts wash over a viewer at a film festival (it's too much information to retain) they will be easily absorbed by a viewer of this documentary.

What sets this documentary apart, though, is that "just the facts" is not the only thing this film is about. It follows the stories of six people who are doing something to alleviate the situation. Three of these people were at the after-film Q & A: actor Don Cheadle, activist Adam Stirling, and international jurist Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

The other three are still in the Sudan: a female freedom fighter, a sheik working in the camps trying to help displaced people, and an aid worker trying to get food to the displaced people's camps.

Director: Ted Braun
Country: USA
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 92 minutes
Music: Graeme Revell; featuring the song: "Love's in Need of Love Today", written by Stevie Wonder, performed by Stevie Wonder and Bono.
With: Don Cheadle, Hejewa Adam, Pablo Recalde, Ahmed Mohammed Abakar, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, Adam Sterling.

My Brother is an Only Child

Screenplay for this film was by the same people who wrote Best of Youth, the six-hour film I saw at the festival several years ago. Again, this is the story of brothers following them through various stages of their life.

The young actor who plays Accio, the main character, at the beginning of the movie is exceptional. He decides that seminary life is not for him and becomes infatuated with facist ideals. His brother, meanwhile, is a member of the communist party.

Most of the story takes place in an area close to Rome that was built by Mussolini during the thirties.

Lots of twists and turns in the plot follow the plight of working-class Italians caught between the government and opposing party faithful throughout the sixties and seventies.

Director: Daniele Luchetti
Country: Italy
Year: 2007
Language: Italian
Runtime: 108 minutes
Principal Cast: Elio Germano, Riccardo Scamarcio, Diane Fleri, Alba Rohrwacher, Angela Finocchiaro

Saturday, September 8, 2007


Great! The TIFF person who introduced this film gave away the ending just before she introduced the director. Luckily she was not there for the Q & A after the movie.

Incredible acting job by Irish comedian Pat Shortt as Josie, a likeable but naive keeper of a garage on the outskirts of an Irish town. Fifteen-year-old David comes to work with him on weekends and a rather complicated friendship begins.

We follow Josie in his daily ramblings: his trips to the pub where he is made fun of, his visits with Carmel who shows him friendship but "not that kind of friendship," his trips with David and his teenage pals who drink beer around a late-night bonfire, his talks with truck drivers who travel to the continent, his solitary home life at the back of the garage, his encounters with a farm horse who loves apples.

Not traditional story-telling but a series of scenes/vignettes that added up to a story that stayed with me for a long time after.

The end of day two at the festival: 3 wins, 1 draw.

Director: Lenny Abrahamson
Country: Ireland
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 85 minutes
Principal Cast: Pat Shortt, Anne-Marie Duff, Conor Ryan, Don Wycherley, Andrew Bennett


Last year I saw this director's film Dong which followed a painter as he travelled to various parts of China -- including the Three Gorges Dam project. So I knew what I was getting in for: long takes, not much action, meaningless dialogue, no story.

I enjoyed this perfect movie for a film festival since it does not demand much of you ... just let the scenery wash over you ... and it gives you a chance to catch up on your sleep. The only documentary part of the movie was an interview with a Chinese designer who makes clothes and then buries them in the earth and then shows them off. (This last part happened while I was sleeping, but luckily I found out what happened from another festival goer while we were waiting for another film to start.)

But tell me this: how could you possibly recommend a movie in which at least fifteen minutes is taken up by shots of a man walking among coal fields with his torn pants in a plastic bag and his subsequent visit to a seamstress who fixes the pants for him while she is talking to her brother about family affairs and his comings and goings.

It's possible that the theme of this film is clothing, but I'm not sure.

Director: Jia Zhang-ke

Michael Clayton

A two-hour movie at the festival? Yikes. But then it's with George Clooney, so who would complain? Certainly not me. It's a thriller. Many plot twists and turns. Totally captivating.

Clooney is a lawyer who begins to question the work he does -- especially when he sees what is happening to his former mentor and co-worker Tom Wilkinson. Is he going to be in trouble himself too?

Tilda Swinton is great as his nemesis at a corporate giant company with secrets to hide.

Great performances all around.

Director: Tony Gilroy
Country: USA
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 120 minutes
Principal Cast: George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton, Sydney Pollack


I had thought the subject of torture would be a bit much on film but then I was reminded that people are inured to these things since they happen on television in "24." Thanks, Jack Bauer, for making it commonplace.

In any event, this movie was a look at how it might happen to one person -- but no less to the people on both sides of the torture -- the situation is looked at from many sides. You can't talk about this movie without mentioning the names of the actors -- all with stellar performances. Reese Witherspoon positively glows as the pregnant wife of the Egyptian man who suffer the "extraordinary rendition." Jake Gyllenhaal plays the Tale of Two Cities "'tis a far, far better thing I do" role to perfection. Meryl Streep is properly villainous as a government official who orders the torture. Peter Sarsgaard is senator Alan Arkin's aide who goes to bat for Reese.

The actors on the Arab side, though not well know, are just as competent. Several story strands are played out simultaneously. We see what is happening in many stories progressing to the inevitable conclusion with a surpising chronological twist.

Perhaps it will be educational; perhaps it will be just another "story." It's difficult to foretell how American audiences will react to this one. I'm curious to see how it plays out.

Director: Gavin Hood
Country: USA
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 120 minutes
Principal Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon, Alan Arkin, Peter Sarsgaard, Omar Metwally, Igor Naor, and Meryl Streep

Friday, September 7, 2007


I had to see this one because last year's Philippine movie, filmed in the same style was a very good one. "The Bet Collector" was filmed with a well-known Filipino actress in the lead role on location in the streets of Manila with real actors. The extras are whoever happens to be in the street at the time. They call it "real time" filming.

The actors were a lot younger this time and the story was of pickpockets and squatters interacting with each other, the police, non-actor holy week revelers, and real politicians campaigning for office. The director told us he felt they had a lot in common with each other.

Unfortunately, some of the scenes went on far too long, the actors spent most of the time shouting their lines, and the "real" extras didn't add much to the story. It had the feeling of a documentary but explained nothing. Interesting but not captivating.

The movie was preceded by a short "The Shock Doctrine," which was actually nothing more than a promo for a new Naomi Klein book or film (I can't remember which). Ads at the festival? I thought we'd be able to avoid such things.

Thus ended my first day at the festival: 1 win, 1 loss, 1 draw.

Director: Brillante Mendoza
Country: The Philippines
Year: 2007
Language: Tagalog
Runtime: 86 minutes
Principal Cast: Jiro Manio, Kristoffer King, Coco Martin, Nathan Lopez, Jaclyn Jose

The Pope's Toilet

A very funny comedy from Uruguay which also looks at the plight of people in Uruguay who live on the border with Brazil ... and the people who smuggle goods into the country from Brazil.

Most of the cast was amateur and it shows in some scenes, but they are very earnest and none can be accused of looking like Hollywood actors.

The story is based on a true event, a visit by "the travelling pope" to this small border town. Everyone figures they'll make a fortune on the busloads of tourists that will be coming from Brazil. They each come up with original ways of making money.

Very sympathetic. A real film festival film.

Directors: Enrique Fernández, César Charlone
Country: Uruguay/Brazil/France
Year: 2007
Language: Spanish
Runtime: 97 minutes
Principal Cast: César Troncoso, Virginia Méndez, Mario Silva, Nelson Lence, Virginia Ruíz

The Brave One

I'm not sure I subscribe to the revenge flick genre. It seems to be an American thing: every problem can be solved by getting a gun ... or a bigger gun than the other person.

Jodie Foster, pictured left at the premiere with co-star Terrence Howard, sort of sleepwalks though her part.

Though I wanted to like it -- after all it is a Neil Jordan film -- I couldn't connect with any of the characters. Terence Howard's earnest and forceful acting style clashed with Jodie Foster's more laid-back approach and Nick Katt was thrown in for comic relief/black humour.

Mike pointed out the director's homage to Taxi Driver ... even to copying the final camera shot.

Not a very auspicious film with which to start my film festival this year.

Director: Neil Jordan
Country: USA/Australia
Year: 2007
Language: English
Runtime: 119 minutes
Principal Cast: Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard, Naveen Andrews, Mary Steenburgen