Saturday, September 09, 2006


Filmmaker John Sayles

For no reason in particular — he doesn't even have a new movie coming out — it occurred to me to write about a favourite filmmaker, John Sayles.[1] He's written a good batch of screenplays, and has directed some of them as well. Some that he's both written and directed are

  • Return of the Secaucus 7
  • Matewan
  • City of Hope
  • Passion Fish
  • The Secret of Roan Inish
  • Lone Star
  • Men with Guns
  • Limbo
  • Sunshine State
  • Casa de los Babys

Author Barbara Kingsolver had this to say about Sayles, when asked in an interview whether, as a writer, she mentally rewrites things that she reads or sees:

I've rewritten the screenplay of almost every movie I've ever seen, driving my husband crazy incidentally, on the way home from the theater (except for the films of John Sayles, which are invariably perfect).

I wouldn't call Sunshine State "perfect"; it's his most Altman-esque effort. But "perfect" is a good description of the writing of the other films. As with many directors, you'll see some of the same actors in a number of his films, actors such as David Strathairn, Angela Bassett, Chris Cooper, and Joe Morton. And you generally won't see lists of famous names in his films, except as they've become famous since — he tends to find relatively untapped talent and excellent "character actors". The story is the point here, not the stars.

Why not start with Lone Star, and then branch out from there? If you're not a John Sayles fan, give him a try and you soon will be.

[1] Actually, the reason is that I was listening to the soundtrack CD of Limbo while on a long drive recently, and it made me think about the movie.

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