Saturday, April 23, 2005

John Sayles is a hulking figure at six-foot-four. I got a chance to shake his enormous hands before lunch today. His blue-collar persona (yes, he’s worked in factories) is refreshing for an independent filmmaker. I can’t stand film people who look and act like “film people”. It seems that some of them put more thought into their appearance than they do their films. A fake personality creates fake films, and this is certainly not the case for Mr. Sayles. “It would be inaccurate to say that this film is a departure for you because every film is a departure for you,” said Roger Ebert to John Sayles after the screening of The Secret of Roan Inish. Certainly the first thing you think when you hear of the premise for this film is “Huh?” The same could perhaps be said for a lot of John Sayles movies. Sayles said that he usually doesn’t work with professional children. Most of the kids he uses as actors and actresses are children they find in the neighborhood or children of friends and so forth. He says he likes working with kids for whose parents it’s not important that their children be working in the movies.

Roger made a good point about family films in that a true family film should appeal and relate to every member of the family. “Family film” is a term often used inaccurately to describe movies that are designed only for children. There’s of course nothing wrong with a film designed for children but more often than not such films aren’t written for children but are rather pandered to children. Everything’s dumbed down. There are easy jokes and pratfalls. There’s usually a one-dimensional butt-of-the-joke imp characters. “There’s this mentality that if you can’t sell a movie through McDonald’s with a happy toy you can’t sell a movie to kids,” said Sayles’s producer and significant other Maggie Renzi after the screening. She added later however that “we can sneer at Hollywood all we want but there’s not a lot of love and warmness in independent filmmaking either,” said Renzi. It seems the connotation of “independent” has lost its romantic sheen.

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