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A Skifully Woven Tapestry.,
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This review is from: Lone Star [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
It has taken me a long time to finally watch a John Sayles film, and I am glad to say it was well worth the wait. This is one of the better films that I have seen in a long time, which somehow slipped under my malfunctioning radar. The film was written, directed and edited by Sayles, who finances his films through scriptwriting in more generic Hollywood fodder. But his own auteur's vision is as different to the staple Hollywood production line as the Parthenon is to a block of Manchester flats. Sayle's truly stamps his own hallmark deeply into the film.
The film itself is set in the 90s in the small Texas border town of Frontera. The town is situated on the Rio Grande opposite to its poor Mexican cousin Ciudad Leon. The location is ideal to explore the dynamics of people who live in an ever fluctuating multi cultural society. Part contemporary western, part love story, and part murder mystery it is like a hot spicy broth all mixed up and stirred vigorously. The body of an old sheriff gone missing in the fifties is discovered and an investigation into the suspicious circumstances of his death is commenced by the towns sheriff. Matters are further complicated by the fact that the current sheriff's father was also a former sheriff of the town, and is strongly implicated in the earlier disappearance. The plot then begins to weave a rich tapestry to bring interlocking stories together. We head to an ending with a couple of unexpected twists. Will the murderer be found nearly forty years after the crime?
The above synopsis hardly does justice to the intricacies of what is an extremely intelligent and perceptive script. Sayle's is a skilled storyteller who would no doubt be capable of writing fine books. He uses his skill to examine people from differing ethnic backgrounds tackling their own social problems. They grapple with historical identity, education and politics. This is a very ambitious undertaking that few would have pulled off, but Sayle's succeeds brilliantly. The story and language contained within in it is always totally believable and never trite. The ensemble cast, are all excellent, especially Chris Cooper as the son investigating his own fathers possible crime. Cooper has been used regularly by Sayle's, and is a fine actor in the Robert Mitchum mould. Kris Kristofferson appears in flashback to good effect, if all too briefly as the murdered racist sheriff Wade. Matthew McConaughey also makes a strong impression in the flashback scenes as Cooper's now dead father. This was before he became the doyen of the Hollywood fluffy bunny, girly films! The past looms large in the film, and is skillfully woven into the films fabric. The flashbacks are never intrusive and flow seamlessly through the film as facts and lives slowly emerge from the dark. This is a masterful film that should be seen at least twice to fully appreciate its qualities. A deserved five stars. Time to catch up on more of Mr Sayle's films!