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— I almost felt like I missed the best part of this year's Toronto International Film Festival - we always miss something, we simply can't spare the time to attend all 10 days - until I saw Todd Haynes' I'm Not There.

I'm writing this more than a week after seeing the movie, and I'm still in its thrall, so much that I don't much want to talk or write about it, I just want to show it to you. I want to steep you in it, I want you to believe in it the way I believe in it.

Most of you won't, but that's OK. Haynes has made a movie that will have a specific depth for Bob Dylan enthusiasts and fans of certain dead European directors, but a lot of the detail and filigree will be lost on those who have never seen Don't Look Back or 8 1 /2. I think it's as much about a time in our cultural history - in the world's cultural history - when high and low art were collapsed, when flipping through Life magazine could be as edifying and mind-blowing as a stroll through the Museum of Modern Art. It feels like a film Dylan himself might have directed if he had the skills of visualization and organization necessary to spin dreams into celluloid.

It's a measure of how deep this year's festival was that I'm Not There didn't completely dominate the buzz. Noel Murray, a Conway-based critic who writes for the Onion A.V. Club and Nashville Scene and who attended the firstweek of the festival, told me it was the strongest he'd seen in years. Sean Penn's Into the Wild, David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises (which opened a week ago; I saw it after I left Toronto), and Joel and Ethan Coen's No Country for Old Men (nominated for the Golden Palm at Cannes earlier this year) were all cited as highlights.

Sidney Lumet's Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is a surprisingly strong rebound for the 83-year-old director, a film of quiet power and palpable tension that (finally) makes good use of Ethan Hawke. Philip Seymour Hoffman is deliciously repugnant, a better villain than he is in Mission: Impossible III.

And Shekar Kapur's Elizabeth: The Golden Age (which I also saw after the festival was concluded) is a fine bit of historically inspired drama that might earn Cate Blanchett another Oscar nomination (I don't want to get started playing that game yet; on the other hand, she's probably a lock for one for I'm Not There).

I didn't get to see more than the first 30 minutes of the Who documentary Amazing Journey, but that was enough to know I want my own DVD copy. And I was pleasantly surprised by Jonathan Demme's tremendously entertaining old school verite documentary Man From Plains that portrays former President Carter as intelligent anddecent, occasionally cantankerous, touchingly capable of being wounded by critics, but most of all as decidedly human and humane.

I missed both of the Joy Division films. Sigh.

Woody Allen's Cassandra's Dream isn't as bad as some of its critics are making it out to be; if he hadn't made Match Point it would probably be considered something of a comeback. But the films are very close in tone and theme, and the Match Point script is arguably better hewn and far more original. I didn't hate it - I even liked it a little. Especially Colin Farrell and Sally Hawkins, who seems a little like a less glammed-up, less pneumatic Scarlett Johansson.

I heard good things about Jason Reitman's Juno, Ang Lee's Lust, Caution (although at 156 minutes, it probably could stand some cutting) and Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

While I don't like to speculate too much about films before I've seen them (and about awards not at all), it looks like we've got a fairly rich three months of moviegoing left in 2007. Buckle up; things are about to get interesting.

E-mail:

pmartin@arkansasonline.com

MovieStyle, Pages 41, 44 on 09/28/2007

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