thatcow

Sayles Ensemble Formula

John Sayles is a very busy director. He seems to uncover a small nugget of an idea for a script and then begins to layer in devices he is comfortable with. Certainly, one of those devices is the ensemble drama. Part of what I like about Sayles is in most of his movies, the contraptions don't seem easy or silly. These characters generally stumble into realistic problems and their eventual rise as an ensemble feels relatively natural. This worked well in Sunshine State, Men With Guns, Limbo, and Lonestar. It wasn't quite as good of a fit in Brother From Another Planet or Silver City. For Casa, it does seem to come together.

Essentially, this movie is about American women that go to Mexico to adopt Mexican babies. The point of this simple premise is a commentary on a new form of imperialism. Would the Chinese ever send women to America to adopt white children? The cast of women don't know much about each other and are forced to get along due to language barriers, a sense of competition to get a baby, and the bureaucracy of adoption in Mexico.

What appears to be another emerging Sayles trait is the fragmented ending. There are no easy answers to the string of events Sayles puts together. There are some concluding moments, but not a wrap up. We know that the series of frames we have been watching continues without us being present as the viewer. We know there are more parts to think about.

The filming is similar to other Sayles pictures. At timess it feels very much like a documentary and there are other times when the shot lingers for just a sense of artistic flair.

I'm not sure I understand Sayles intentions with the credited actors. In the DVD extras and just by watching his career, I know that he believes the system can be different. In this bi-lingual movie, why do none of the Mexican actors get billed? Only the top line anglo actors have their names shown in the beginning. This is either for reinforcement of our ideas or to carry the audience so that Sayles' next project can be funded.

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