Return of the Secaucus Seven (John Sayles / U.S., 1980):

Granola theater on the cusp of the New Right. John Sayles takes friends, camera tripod and Corman paychecks to a Vermont lake house for Le RŤgle du Jeu ŗ la Indiewood, the counterculture is taken stock of ten years after ideals have peaked. High-school teachers with "socialistic tendencies" (Bruce MacDonald, Maggie Renzi) host a weekend gathering for chums, guests include a guitar-strumming troubadour (Adam LaFevre), a medical intern (Maggie Cousineau), a couple on the rocks (Mark Arnott, Karen Trott), and a political speechwriter (Jean Passanante) and her beau (Gordon Clapp), "who still cries when he hears the Gettysburg Address." Charades, skinny-dipping and shagging on the living room floor are the activities, weed is the main nostalgic lubricator, "whatís a reunion without a little drama?" Whatever tension there is among the fellas gets worked out on the basketball court, the gals fret over their biological clocks until they spot overworked suburban mothers ("There but for the grace of Ovral-21 go I"). People bitch about The Big Chill, but who remembers Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000? Saylesí purposeful aesthetic amateurishness at times comes close to wax-paper stylization, the hoops-shooting sequence reveals a novelistís first discovery of montage. The specters of youthful engagement hang over it all -- evoking Allende and the Canal Treaty at a tavern bull session, mimicking the strike chants from Salt of the Earth, trying to convince themselves that a job as a senatorís aide is really that of a subversive "infiltrator." The character who recalls protest-related arrests like tattered medals is last seen exhausted, with ax in hand yet surrounded by piles of splintered wood. Can the struggle survive the new decade? Until then, thereís a rare glimpse of David Strathairnís early apprenticeship as a clown, and the melancholy irony of aging activists professing disappointment with Carter while unaware of the Reaganisms up ahead. With Carolyn Brooks, Eric Forsythe, and Brian Johnson.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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