Safety First | Letters | Chicago Reader

Safety First 

Mr. Rosenbaum:

Mike D'Angelo (I know you lie awake at night wondering what Mike D'Angelo thinks of you) said that you have "gone off the deep end of late, interpreting innocent genre films in a bizarre neo-Marxist framework," although you have never been a communist in your life, and if one actually READS your books and reviews, there seems to be a more aesthetic approach to film in general that a one-paragraph reviewer like D'Angelo can only approximate. You do admit the omnipresence of politics (and philosophy and religion and being human) in film, but somehow other people interpret this basic determination as "Marxism." Don't ask me why they make this leap, except that you make no bones about your interest in dethroning George Bush fils. Perhaps this somehow makes you a line-toeing leftist; I don't know.

I do know that your review of Sayles's new film ["Same Old Lefty Claptrap," September 17] is a nice rejoinder to all of that. Silver City is pretty weak, but I would go on to say that Sayles has generally forfeited artistic invention for the recapitulation of political cliches. City of Hope, Lone Star, Sunshine State--they all sacrificed the ambiguity of art to the banality of formulaic politics. They're such harmlessly bland films, and so in tune with the average critic's politics, that many people consider a bad review of a John Sayles movie unnecessarily cruel, akin to evaluating a child's finger painting. Don't discourage someone who's saying the "right" things, they seem to say tacitly. I'm not assuming of course that you disliked any of those films, and I certainly have not seen all of John Sayles's movies. Perhaps I have missed a gem.

But I wonder how self-sufficient and openly political Sayles could be if he was more volatile and risky and nuanced and responsive to the world.

Maybe he has resorted to inoffensive pablum in order to preserve the expression of his political convictions. Maybe anything more mercurial would alienate the parade of well-known actors eager to participate in his lukewarm stories without their typical compensation.

Greg Giles

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