CITY OF HOPE
1991, Sony Repertory, 129 min, USA, Dir: John Sayles

Director John Sayles demonstrates both his talent for characterization and his insightful approach to social issues with this ambitious ensemble piece. Vincent Spano plays the son of a contractor involved in a bitter property dispute that threatens to tear apart the New Jersey city where he lives, while Joe Morton plays an idealistic city councilman struggling to build a constituency. Their stories extend into the lives of dozens of supporting characters across race and class lines, all of whom are fully developed and painfully real. A thoughtful and moving portrait of early 1990s American life that is unfortunately even more relevant today in its vision of urban corruption and political maneuvering.


LES MISÉRABLES
2019, Amazon Studios, 102 min, France, Dir: Ladj Ly

In the Paris suburb where Victor Hugo set part of his 19th-century magnum opus, French filmmaker Ladj Ly tells an all-too-contemporary tale of crime and community. Inspired by the 2005 riots that set cars ablaze across France, Ly focuses his lens on a trio of police officers whose unorthodox tactics bring them into conflict with local youth. Heightening the tension are a drone’s probing eye and the threat that at any moment racial tensions will flare too high to be contained. Winner of the Prix du Jury at 2019’s Cannes Film Festival, LES MISÉRABLES leverages documentary-style rawness and pulse-quickening momentum to stake its claim as an accomplished thriller concerned with social inequity and its corrosive effect on the rule of law.


PRIMAL FEAR
1996, Paramount, 129 min, USA, Dir: Gregory Hoblit

In this glossy legal thriller, a hot-shot lawyer (Richard Gere) chooses to defend a young man (Edward Norton, in his Oscar-nominated feature debut) accused of murdering an archbishop. But closer examination of the facts reveals dark secrets about the archbishop and the boy’s past. The top-flight supporting cast includes Laura Linney, John Mahoney, Alfre Woodard and Frances McDormand. “The plot is as good as crime procedurals get, but the movie is really better than its plot because of the three-dimensional characters.” - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.


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