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.


MATEWAN
1987, Park Circus/MGM, 132 min, USA, Dir: John Sayles

Based on a true incident in the impoverished but coal-rich hills of West Virginia in the 1920s, writer-director John Sayles’ masterpiece is an unforgettable portrait of a community struggling to assert itself under the crushing dominance of capitalist greed. Chris Cooper (ADAPTATION) turns in his finest performance as labor organizer Joe Kenehan, with tremendous support from a cast that includes James Earl Jones, Mary McDonnell, David Strathairn and Sayles himself. The cinematography by Haskell Wexler (WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, and winner of the 1992 ASC Lifetime Achievement Award) perfectly captures the haunted, bone-weary desperation of the miners and their families.


LIMBO
1999, Sony Repertory, 126 min, USA, Dir: John Sayles

One of John Sayles’ most haunting films, LIMBO is a sublime meditation on the feeling of being stuck in a liminal state, a theme as relevant to the characters as it is to the viewer’s experience. Set in Juneau, Alaska, a town on the edge of civilization surrounded by water and wilderness, the film follows former fisherman-turned-handyman Joe (David Strathairn) and tired lounge singer Donna (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), who strike up a casual relationship to distract themselves from their otherwise dreary lives. Their sudden relationship comes much to the chagrin of Donna’s teenage daughter Noelle (Vanessa Martinez) but all three lives gradually begin to improve - until a forgotten part of Joe’s past reemerges and sets off a dramatic chain of events that leaves them stranded on a deserted island.


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