l John Sayles
‘I like to get the bugs out.’ That’s not a phrase you'd expect to hear from John Sayles, one of America’s most respected independent filmmakers. Sayles has become known as a filmmaker with a liberal bias and political slant for a body of work which includes: Return Of The Secaucus Seven, Matewan, Eight Men Out, Passion Fish and Lone Star, the last two picking up Best Original Screenplay Oscar nominations. His last but one film, the Spanish-language drama, Men With Guns, was about ’disappearances' in a politically unstable unnamed Latin American country.
So, where do bugs come into the picture? Sayles was talking about his script for James Cameron, Brother Termite, an as yet unfilmed giant insect sci-fi flick. Apprenticed with B-movie mogul Roger Corman, Sayles wrote the scripts Piranha, Alligator and Battle Beyond The Stars. In fact, he's made a good living out of writing, which along with uncredited script doctoring (on Apollo 13, for example) has enabled Sayles to make the kind of films Hollywood wouldn’t touch.
Limbo is such a film. ’I'd been thinking for a long time about people who, as they get older are not hooked-up in a long term relationship, have more and more baggage to bring with them,’ says Sayles. ’It may be children. It may be standards that they have now that they didn’t have in their twenties. I wonder about how a person starts from scratch when he or she is over 30. I often come up with stories that are in search of places. One day I realised that Alaska was a place where an awful lot of people come to be something different than they were. It is a place where people come to reinvent themselves.’
For Hollywood to green light this kind of material, it would no doubt require A-Iist stars plus equal amounts of humour and schmaltz. That's not Sayles's way. With : this ruggedly individualist filmmaker, artistic integrity leaves no room for schmaltz. So instead of A-list stars,
Numerologist: Jeremy Podeswa
Rugged individual: John Sayles on location for Limbo
Sayles cast his regular player, David Strathairn, and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as two lost souls who find fleeting companionship in each other in the bleak southeastern reaches of North America. 'lt's about people and communities in transition,‘ concludes Sayles. ’There are a lot of people who are stuck in limbo, people who are just waiting. It's not heaven. It’s not hell. It's not purgatory. It’s the place where you never know what’s going to happen next.’
Except it’s not likely to involve giant bugs. (Miles Fielder) I Limbo opens Fri 27 Jan. See review A selection of Say/es’ films are being screened at Glasgow: GF T and Edinburgh: Fi/mhouse between Wed 26 Jan and Sat 5 Feb. The Fi/mhouse runs a John Sayles Study Day Sat 5 Feb.
Altman’s work, the allegorical and numerical dimensions of the story faCilitated the creative process. ’It’s a hook,’ admits Podeswa. ’I write in an organic way, so when I started by having five characters, each of whom have something to do With one of the five senses, it suggested certain things for their characters. Either losing a sense, or someone havrng a finely attuned sense. And then you have professions that tie into the senses.
Writer/director of The Five Senses
Canadian writer and director Jeremy Podeswa takes us back to basics with The Five Senses, a poignant allegorical tale about the search for intimacy in a cynical age. ‘lt’s really not something you’re conscious of when you’re writing,’ says Podeswa, ’but usually when you look back at your work you can see these recurrent themes and it’s become fairly clear to me that everything I make is about the search
for love, the search for intimacy.’
In this, Podeswa's second film, the Toronto-based writer/director has followed many of the themes and narrative structural deVices used in his previous feature, Eclipse, where the movements of ten characters are followed during the ten-day period leading up to a solar eclipse. The Five Senses employs five characters, each of them representing one of the senses, and here the unifying event is the disappearance of a little girl.
In Podeswa’s multi-layered narratives,
you have to go beyond all that because it’s not really the function of the mowe. I came to realise that the senses are a way of getting to the main issue which
to which he honours a debt to Robert
That stuff helps you build what those characters might be, but in the end
is really to keep looking for an intimate
'I do believe very strongly that people aren’t meant to be alone and that to share your life with somebody requires
taking risks. I think happiness lies in people being social beings, people
being loving and being loved.’ (Catherine Bromley) I The Five Senses opens Fri 28 Jan.
BOOK REVIEWS Sayles On Sayles
Gavin Smith ed (Faber £11.99) *tti
Conversations With Wilder
Cameron Crowe (Faber £20) ****
In some ways the newest addition to the Faber interwew series, Sayles On Sayles, is one of the best Where other books in the series on, say, ScOisese and Cronenberg hinted at thematic complexities, here Sayles talks about the nuts and bolts Narrative technique, financmg and where to put the camera are all detailed in the common-sense manner of a man who knows exactly what he’s up to For anybody more interested in cinema as solid craft over personal art, Sayles's book sc0res, ’, . one of the things you don’t want to do With a ’scope movre is pan, because it makes you seasick,’ he says, ’To me the opening of the movre has to tell you what world you’re entering and give you a warning as to the rules of that world ’ And there’s a solid body of work to back that statement up Matewan, City Of Hope, Lone Star, etc, all decent films With strong political cores compensating for their generally conservative aesthetic. Superny edited by Gavm Smith (though not covering Sayles’s latest film, Limbo), whose rigorous questioning indicates an intricate knowledge of Sayles’s films, this is easily recommended.
Resembling an extended Scene By Scene by Edinburgh's own Mark Cousins, director Cameron (Jerry Maguire) Crowe's book length interView, Conversations With Wilder, shows the enthusiastic Crowe recalling the films sometimes better than the nonagenarian master. But we might occaSionally wonder whether this is less senility or forgetfulness on Wilder’s part than a sensible act of denial. When Crowe brings up some of Wilder’s ’failures', the old man says, 'now comes the painful part’, whilst the successes, and there have been plenty of them — Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, The Apartment — he remembers With vrwd delight. There’s a detailed explanation of Some Like It Hot’s closing line — 'Nobody’s perfect’ — and plenty of background material on the making of The Apartment: the importance of French production deSIgner Alexander Trauner, who caught so astuter the sense of bureaucratic oppresSion in the office scenes; the off-the-cuff deCision to have Jack Lemmon sieve spaghetti With a tennis racket. It’s all beautifully presented here in a coffee table hardback. (Tony McKibbin)
Nobody's perfect: Billy Wilder
20 Jan-3 Feb 2000 THE lIST 23