Hey Ain’t From Another Planet, He’s My Brother

neighborhood tic tac toeJohn Sayles is a script doctor. So is Carrie Fisher. I’m guessing they bring her in to work on snappy dialog and clear characterization, while he’s more for plot and motivation. But I don’t really know.

When he’s not working on other folks’ movies, John Sayles makes his own. They tend to be interesting. ┬áThere’s several that I really like.

He has a strange rhythm sometimes. It seems like there’s too much slowness or shots last too long. But there’s always something going on that calls for it. Usually somebody is saying something that you really need to know. So you just have to have some patience.

If you’ve never seen a John Sayles movie, track down Lone Star. It’s just pretty darned good. You’ll thank me for that recommendation. You’re welcome. But it’s so good, there’s nothing to say about it. Just go in cold, sit back, let it sink in. Absorb it all. It’s awesome.

Something that I can talk about a little longer is The Brother From Another Planet. I saw this in a theater when it first came out. For a movie by a white guy that’s talking about black people, I don’t think that it’s too embarrassing.

Sayles’ trademark movie style is to research a place, then film a story there that is steeped in that place. The movie is really about the place, but he brings characters to life that really live there. They really inhabit the movie. It’s a cool formula that really doesn’t make for formulaic movies.

In this case, the place is Harlem. This mute black guy with funny toes washes up on Ellis Island, and ends up exploring a Harlem neighborhood. Everything is a surprise to him.

And also to us. Sometimes sound effects are made up of music. Sometimes music is made up of found sounds. The camera sometimes seems to linger a long time so we can see everything we need to see, or hear all we need to hear.

There’s a bunch of different characters, and you get to know them all intimately. Maybe Carrie Fisher helped with the script!

And every time you start to think it’s getting preachy, something different happens and surprises you.

There’s even this magic trick where this white guy makes all the white folks disappear.


About Lyle Verbilion

I'm just wanderin' around lookin' at things. Wow.
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