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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Wednesday August 14, 2019 

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SAYLES, JOHN: Limbo (extracts)

Extracts from ANDREW L. URBAN'S interview with John Sayles, whose latest film, Limbo, screened in Competition at Cannes 1999, and is the opening film for the 1999 Sydney Film Festival(June 11). The interview will be run in full when Limbo is released commercially in Australia later this year:

Sayles, a tall man who looks as though he belongs on the land, is receiving journalists in a suite at the Martinez Hotel on the waterfront at Cannes. His American leisure gear looks as out of place as do the journalists in their shabby work clothes. This is not the glamour end of the festival, but it is where the film directors – to whom Cannes pays homage – get to speak about their films to the ears of the world: us.

"He thinks differently. And he takes risks."

Sayles finds it easy to talk about his film, and points out that he began as a novelist, not a filmmaker. He thinks differently. And he takes risks. When Limbo screened for the festival, Sayles was rewarded for his risktaking with boos for its surprisingly abrupt ending – which is impossible to talk about in detail without giving away the punch line.

Admitting he took a risk, Sayles also confesses he is ‘asking the audience to take a risk. The two risks I am asking the audience to take which are unusual: one is the structure of the film, which starts out in one direction and with no warning, change it. The only other film I can think of that did that is Jonathan Demme’s Something Wild, which starts out like a screwball comedy and ends up as a thriller with people chasing each other with knives. With no warning."

"If you don't take chances, you remain in limbo."

But it’s the second one that will be the subject of heated debate – the ending. "What do I have to say about risk? I don’t say ‘it’ll be fine, folks, as long as you’re good, or you’re attractive or you’re the hero…but I’m also not saying that if you take a chance you're going to be punished automatically. What I am saying is that if you don't take chances, you remain in limbo."

So, it’s almost a dare, and certainly an invitation: go see Limbo.

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John Sayles


Cast: Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, David Strathairn, Vanessa Martinez, Kris Kristofferson

Written and directed by John Sayles (Matewan, The Secret of Roan Inish, Lone Star, Men With Guns)

Cinematography by Haskell Wexler

A small Alaskan town, once rich on gold mining, now surviving on fishing, is the sort of place people run from and run to, depending on their circumstances. On the edge of Alaska’s great stretches of nature, it is where Joe Gastineau (David Strathairn), a fisherman traumatised by an accident at sea years before, now lives quietly. Alone.

Into Joe’s land-locked life comes singer Donna de Angelo (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) and her disaffected daughter Noelle (Vanessa Martinez). When Joe’s fast-talking half-brother Bobby (Casey Siemaszko) returns to town and asks Joe for a favour, the lives of the three characters are forever altered.


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