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John Sayles Retrospective

The Berkshires have long been known as a destination for the cultural tourist. Every year, top-notch arts institutions presenting dance, theater and fine arts attract them in droves—with no small representation from the Capital Region. What many folks don’t know is that—in addition to Tanglewood, Jacob’s Pillow, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the Williams College Museum, and so on—there’s a movie house in Williamstown that has been advancing the cause of independent film for 85 years: Images Cinema. And beginning on Wednesday, the cinema is presenting “arguably [their] most spectacular film event since [they] opened in 1916”: a John Sayles retrospective, featuring the premiere of the indie legend’s newest film, Sunshine State, and personal appearances by Schenectady native and Williams grad Sayles (pictured) and several of his actors.

The celebration, which begins Wednesday and runs through June 9, kicks off with a 7 PM screening of Sayles’ debut, the genre-defining film Return of the Secaucus Seven. Shot for pennies in 1979, the flick paved the way for reunion films such as The Big Chill, and established Sayles’ distinctive template for frugally filmed explorations of “humanist concerns.” Lianna, for example, deals with a married woman’s attraction to another woman; The Brother From Another Planet tackles thorny societal issues by telling the tale of a peaceful alien who crash-lands in Harlem; and Matewan, Sayles’ one period piece, chronicles the events surrounding a West Virginian coal- miners’ strike in the 1920s.

Sayles’ newest picture, Sunshine State, too, deals with very human issues. Featuring an almost surprisingly stellar cast—including Edie Falco, Angela Bassett, Mary Steenburgen and Timothy Hutton as well as another Williams College graduate, Gordon Clapp—the movie details the lives of two women, one white and one black, and their families and communities. The film has been called one of Sayles’ “most ambitious to date.”

Images Cinema (50 Spring St., Williamstown, Mass.) hosts the John Sayles Retrospective from Wednesday (June 5) to Sunday (June 9). On Wednesday, Return of the Secausus Seven will be shown at 7 PM. On Thursday (June 6), Sayles and producer Maggie Renzi will speak after the 5 PM screening of Sunshine State. On Friday (June 7), Lianna will be shown at 7 PM, followed by a coffee-and-dessert seminar. On Saturday (June 8), The Brother From Another Planet will be shown at 4 and 9 PM; star Joe Morton will speak after the screenings. Following an 11 AM brunch, the retrospective will conclude with a Sunday (June 9) screening of Matewan at noon. Tickets for films can be purchased individually for $15, and a festival pass is available for $67.50. For more information, call (413) 458-1039.

The Duplex Planet Radio Hour Live

We’ll be careful not to twist our arm patting ourselves on the collective back, but right in Metroland’s masthead we’ve got ourselves a founder of an artistic subculture: David Greenberger (pictured), who frequently lends his pen to our recordings and live-review pages, is better known out in the great big world as the publisher of The Duplex Planet, the magazine he began in 1979 as an “ongoing work designed to portray a wide variety of characters who are old and in decline.”

What that succinct and modest description doesn’t let you know is that Greenberger’s efforts to dispel the myths of aging by conveying the current—and highly individualistic—states of mind of his elderly interviewees have gained him fans and collaborators such as the Young Fresh Fellows, XTC, Robyn Hitchcock, the Figgs and NRBQ, and revered underground comic artists such as Dan Clowes, Chris Ware and Peter Bagge. With such able assistance, Greenberger has documented the particular and peculiar worldviews held by his subjects in multiple forms: in the more-or-less straight Q & A format of The Duplex Planet (which Greenberger still publishes), in comic books (The Duplex Planet Illustrated series), in documentary film (Your Own True Self) and on CD (we recommend any one of the Lyrics by Ernest Noyes Brookings series, or Jack Mudurian’s Downloading the Repertoire, in which Mudurian responds to Greenberger’s challenge to sing uninterruptedly for 45 minutes with a 129-song medley). Greenberger’s affectionate, respectful and often humorous interactions with his subjects, and the insights which he’s gained in the process, have more recently made him something of a fixture on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.

At the Larkin on Saturday, Greenberger will perform live renditions of material from his newest CD, The Duplex Planet Radio Hour, with a now-to-be-expected high-profile backing group: NRBQ’s pianist Terry Adams, and bassist Pete Toigo, who’s backed up both Debby Boone and the Lustre Kings, will provide an original soundtrack to Greenberger’s reading of old and new stories from The Duplex Planet.

David Greenberger will perform two sets with Terry Adams and Pete Toigo at the Larkin (199 Lark St., Albany) on Saturday (June 1) at 8:30 and 10:30 PM. Tickets are $12, and reservations are recommended. For more information, call 463-5225.

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