Showing 1 - 3 of 3 annotations associated with Sayles, John
- Nixon, Lois LaCivita
As this highly original and provocative film once again demonstrates, John Sayles is not a traditional storyteller. Audiences are caught in the detective story focusing at one level on murders and abuses committed more than 20 years ago; but the filmmaker guides their attention to the survivors, the current and very ordinary folks inhabiting the small border town where secrets are closely kept.
Imagine a blank canvas on which seemingly unrelated splotches of paint appear; then imagine those splotches as members of various ethnic groups inhabiting Frontera on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. First, we have custodial white men who hang around the local coffee shop or fish on previously-owned Indian land transformed recently, and with some controversy, into a lake by the construction of a dam. Then we have Mercedes Cruz (Miriam Colon), a successful business woman and council member who curiously shows little compassion for "wetbacks" and those relapsing into the Spanish language. Her daughter, Pilar (Elizabeth Peña), of whom she is a constant critic, is a school teacher and single mother of two teenagers, a figure whose importance will increase as the composition develops.
Also, there is Otis Payne (Ron Canada), the African-American owner of the town’s black bar, a refuge for that minority group; and there is his estranged son, a rigid and unyielding colonel at the nearby base. Finally and less developed, are the Indians whose land has been claimed by the town’s ruling forces.
As fragments from the past and present provide dimension and meaning, increasingly the disparate colors are transformed into a representational form with clear connecting lines. Shapes and textures gradually become familiar and palpable. Within the context of good and evil, narrative lines blur and thicken. With tantalizing flashbacks, past and present fuse, allowing puzzle pieces to fit together; then engaged audience members realize that the narrative threads have twisted to expose unimagined patterns of sacrifice and love.
- Belling, Catherine
Six childless women from the United States are in an unnamed Latin American country (filmed in Acapulco, Mexico), fulfilling a residence requirement while they wait to adopt babies. The owner of the hotel they stay in (Rita Moreno) and her brother, a lawyer, both make a profit from this delay. The film explores the experiences of the six women and of the people of the place from which their children will come, a place of which they see only a small part of the surface.
The Americans' stories are juxtaposed with that of a young woman who cleans the hotel rooms, who gave up her own baby for adoption "up north," and a pregnant fifteen-year-old middle class girl whose mother takes her to Miami, presumably for an abortion. The film also looks at the implications of political activism which is, for the men in the film, necessary but, for the women, appears to come at the cost of security and domestic stability.
The hotel owner's son criticizes the adoptions as a form of "Yankee cultural imperialism," yet even as we are persuaded by his view, we are swayed by the film's telling contrast between the futures offered by the American women and the lives of the city's glue-sniffing street children. The film ends with two of the women about to receive their adoptive children.
- Woodcock, John
May-Alice Culhane (Mary McDonnell) is a daytime soap opera star who is struck by a taxi in New York and wakes up in a hospital paralyzed from the waist down. Upset and bitter, and unable to continue acting, which she says is the only thing she was ever good at, she returns to her Louisiana bayou family home to begin the rest of her life in isolation.
An employment agency sends out a string of helpers. Some are better than others, but all are quickly defeated by May-Alice’s deep bitterness and negativity and her incipient alcoholism. Then comes Chantelle (Alfre Woodard), who needs the job so badly, as part of digging herself out from a cocaine addiction, that her determination makes her a match for May-Alice.
It is decidedly bumpy going, but Chantelle persists and May-Alice finally strops drinking and begins to make some progress in physical therapy. She takes up black-and-white photography, developing her own prints from her wheelchair, and she gratefully receives the gentlemanly attentions of her high school idol Rennie, played by David Strathairn. (The film takes its title from a practice that locals believe can make love-wishes come true.)