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THE WALKER

Director: PAUL SCHRADER

U.S.A.-U.K.| 2007. COLOUR. ANAMORPHIC. DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO. 107 MIN.


AS IN PREVIOUS PAUL SCHRADER FILMS LIKE AMERICAN GIGOLO (1980) AND LIGHT SLEEPER (1991), THE HERO OF THE WALKER IS A SMOOTH OPERATOR WHO WARILY KEEPS LIFE AND LOVE AT ARM’S LENGTH.

‘Is there a name for what you are?’ enquires an aggressive district attorney of Carter Page III (Woody Harrelson), who is in the frame as a murder suspect. Carter is a ‘walker’, someone who accompanies rich and powerful ladies of the Washington elite to social occasions that their husbands avoid. Living balefully in the shadow of his late, politically revered father, he is a gay gossip with a talent to amuse but with little social or personal sense of purpose. A possibility of redemption occurs when he covers up for one of his society lady friends (Kristin Scott Thomas) who fears scandal when she discovers the murdered body of her lover.

The Walker’s most powerful scene comes early on when, alone in his elegant surroundings, Carter ceremoniously removes his hairpiece: a moment of self-disclosure, a glimpse behind the mask. Neither the murder mystery nor the political sub-text really grips, but seasoned professionals like Lauren Bacall and Lily Tomlin sparkle; Kristin Scott Thomas brilliantly suggests a heart of steel behind a veneer of brittle femininity; and Woody Harrelson’s performance is a subtle study of someone who, one feels, would prefer dispensing polished aphorisms to grasping the nettle of his own personality. ‘I’m not naive,’ he boasts at one stage, ‘I’m superficial’. One might conclude the same about the film, but its quality of wit, characterisation and ideas still puts it a comfortable notch above most contemporary mainstream cinema.—Neil Sinyard.

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