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No Country for Old Men, the movie, is a superbly eloquent adaptation of novelist Cormac McCarthy's plunge into the dark logic of violence. No Country for Old Men, the press conference, is ... well, not quite so articulate. Asked to expand on his attitude toward graphic screen violence, Ethan, the shorter of the directing Coen brothers, responds with a long silence broken by a staccato laugh and, "Aaah, you know, ah, eeeh."
Asked to comment on the symbolism of the barren landscapes that mark both this film and their earlier Fargo, bro Joel rises to the challenge with much greater dispatch to venture this illuminating gem: "Aaah, uhmm, I'm not sure".
In Joel's defence, he does wax eloquent when questioned about his decision to cast the great Spanish actor, Javier Bardem, in the key role of the cold-hearted killer: "These sorts of casting things are really hard to describe. It's almost kind of ineffable".
Aaah, eeeh, uhmm, ineffable indeed. Don't miss the movie, but file those Coen boys under the category of, "Directors in dire need of direction".
George Clooney remains the undisputed king of charm. At a press conference to chat about his new drama, Michael Clayton, the actor says his favourite scene in the legal thriller about corporate corruption was definitely his love scene with Tilda Swinton - adding it was clearly hers, too. "She'd knock on my trailer door and say 'George, let's practice our love scene.' We worked very hard on that," he adds, grinning. But it's no-go territory when a reporter asks about the beautiful model Sarah Larson, with whom he was photographed in Venice. "Good question," Clooney tells the reporter. "Next question. When have I ever answered a personal question? Good for you. Have a nice day." Asked later about a film that moves him and makes him cry, Clooney doesn't miss a beat and quips "the premiere of Batman & Robin" (in which he starred in rubber in 1997)."
One gushing reporter called the devilish grinning actor a "cunning linguist." To which he retorted, "I don't want to say that out loud."
At Bistro 990, the favourite old-guard festival haunt, champagne is being served and hugs and air kisses are being exchanged. It's the McClelland & Stewart event to launch the new book Starring Brian Linehan: A Life Behind the Scenes about the life and times of the late super-interviewer and City Lights host who was a fixture at TIFF for years. Author George Anthony, a former competitor and close friend of Linehan's, sits in the corner getting writer's cramp from autographing a dwindling stack of copies of the book. Starring Brian Linehan tells of Linehan's life growing up in a large family in Hamilton, where he was supposed to end up working at the steel mill, not jetting to Hollywood to see friends such as Bea Arthur, Candice Bergen and Joan Rivers, who wrote the book's introduction
Linehan was famous as a researcher and gossip who knew everything about everyone. So, naturally, the guests are busy rifling through the index to check what the book had to say about them.
"I decided," says Anthony, "not to write the book that Brian would have written about himself but the book he would have enjoyed reading."
At the Scotiabank Theatre, programmer Steve Gravestock introduces the Danish film Erik Nietzsche: The Early Years - a deadpan comedy about a rebellious film school student in Copenhagen in the 1980s - by saying, "This is the easiest programming decision I made all year. If I hadn't booked this film, I should be fired." The script is credited to "Erik Nietzsche," but it's the worst-kept secret at TIFF that it was actually written by Lars von Trier, based "90 per cent" on his life and tweaked "10 per cent by me," says the director, Jacob Thuesen. Why the pseudonym? "I had worked with Lars a few years ago [on the TV series Kingdom Hospital], and it was not an all-time success," Thuesen says. (Von Trier has a long-standing reputation for crazy behaviour.) "It was kind of nice working with him now to pretend it was another person." The film's pretentious professors and directors are all based on real people in the Danish film community, prompting an audience member to ask what reaction Thuesen was getting from them. "You are the first people in the world to see it," he replies, grinning. "In a couple of months, the complaints will drop on me in Denmark. I'm looking forward to that."