Sayles on Sayles

John Sayles, Author, Gavin Smith, Editor, Gavin Smith, Joint Author Faber & Faber $16.95 (216p) ISBN 978-0-571-19280-9
Smith's book-length interview with independent filmmaker John Sayles chronicles Sayles's start as a novelist (Union Dues, 1977, was nominated for a National Book Award), his apprenticeship writing horror scripts (The Howling, 1980) for producer Roger Corman, occasional work as an actor and a playwright, a sojourn writing television and directing music videos and, primarily, the writing and directing of independent features like Matewan (1987), Eight Men Out (1988), Passion Fish (1992) and Lone Star (1996). Sayles speaks with refreshing candor and lack of pretension. His voice enjoyably mixes the vocabulary of a lifelong reader and writer with the idioms of a street-smart survivor: ""The writing in both [The Return of the] Secaucus Seven and Lianna is generally very oblique. There's a lot of kitchen sink quotidian detail."" His discussions of his films and his attempts--for aesthetic and financial reasons--to preserve the spontaneity of acting and to keep his editing austere (""A cut is very much a tear"") place him in the tradition of cinematic realists. One highlight is Sayles's analogy comparing the flash-cutting techniques of style-conscious films to a fast-talking vacuum-cleaner salesman out to close a deal before the customer can stop and think. Smith, an associate editor at Film Comment magazine, provides well-directed questions, and Sayles responds so that hardly a page goes by without an insight about filmmaking and film trends, an engaging digression or an apt turn of phrase. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/02/1998
Release date: 02/01/1998
Genre: Nonfiction
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