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The John Sayles Collection [DVD]
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Collection of works by US independent director John Sayles; 'Lianna' (1983) is the story of a lesbian awakening in Lianna (Linda Griffiths) a married mother of two. When Lianna falls in love with Ruth (Jane Hallaren), her teacher, her cheating husband becomes self-righteously indignant and throws her out. A brooding, boilingly erotic film with a delicate overtone throughout. 'Return of the Secaucus Seven' (1980) is Sayles' directorial debut and the inspiration behind later hit film The Big Chill. Seven former schoolmates gather in New Hampshire for a weekend of love, awareness, stock taking and nostalgia. 'The Brother From Another Planet' (1984) is an allegorical cult film from Sayles about a black alien landing in Harlem and his struggles to get along with the melting pot of cultures he encounters there.
Top Customer Reviews
I was at a arthouse cinema in the 80s when a bunch of arty types came in singing the praises of Secaucus Seven, which was due in a few weeks. I went along to see it, and sure enough it was tremendous.
Return of the Secaucus Seven opens with someone cleaning a toilet, you know that it is going to be left field. A bunch of college friends meet up again over a weekend, mess around, talk a lot, and head their separate ways. There is tremendous warmth and humour to the film, there are just so many great lines, it is clearly a tremendous script. Sayles coaxes fine naturalistic performances from his mostly unknown cast, and makes good use of location shooting. I watched this with my family, who are no arthouse fans, and it kept their interest throughout.
Brother from Another Planet is the story of a mute black alien crashlanding in Harlem. It has great warmth and humanity, and makes you think, rather than bashing you over the head. The cast, in particular Joe Morton, are great. That said, it is not so much low budget, as no budget. The lead character is mute, and the music on the soundtrack is some songs at key sequences. So it is slow and it would be easy to just give up on it at points. But it is well worth the effort, a warm witty script, and two of the most bizarre alien bounty hunters you could ever conceive of. What the film lacks in budget it more than makes up for in imagination. My teenage daughter stuck with this and particularly enjoyed the aliens screeching.
These films show the power of imagination and a great script. No extras to speak of, a slip case, and short leaflet, but this is a tremendous product.
The three movies in this collection are his first three and are each very different from the other. We have a post-hippy ensemble piece, a married woman discovering that she's a lesbian, and a sf satire. Five stars, easy.
Sadly there are no extras. No director's commentary -which would have been fascinating given Sayles' intelligence and radical (by American standards) political viewpoint. Nothing about Sayles himself. No subtitles. Plus the prints aren't all that wonderful and should have been sharpened up. So one star for the presentation. But don't let that put you off buying this set which is intelligent indie film-making at its best.
But hell, it could have been so much better.