Sunshine and shadows

If there were such a thing as an American moviemaker laureate, the title would go to writer-director John Sayles. Since 1980 he has been addressing moral, political and personal issues in American culture, with special emphasis on the dilemmas that confront the working class at the crossroads of love and hope.

Sayles is something of a cross between Eric Rohmer, the French New Wave auteur whose characters gently wrestle with personal conflicts, and the playwright Eugene O'Neill, whose sad sojourners are so crippled by unrealized dreams they are barely able to function. Sayles's characters are rarely as romantic and articulate as Rohmer's, nor as emotionally damaged as O'Neill's pipe-dreamers. In Sayles's world, people accept their disappointments and just keep moving forward.


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