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Matewan - The Movie

movie posterIndependent filmmaker John Sayles, in concert with his intimidating efficient staff (especially art director Dan Bishop and cinematographer Haskell Wexler), performs miracles with the tight $4 million budget allotted to Matewan. The plot, related in flashback from the point of view of an elderly miner (Will Oldham), concerns a fictional 1920 labor action against the Stone Mountain Coal Company of Matewan, West Virginia. Chris Cooper plays a former IWW member sent by the United Mine Workers to organize the miners into a strike. Cooper has problems achieving solidarity at first; additionally, he is plagued by the underhanded activities of company spy Bob Gunton, and by a goonish detective agency hired by the company to "keep the peace". Framed on a phony rape charge, Cooper becomes a "Joe Hill" icon around whom the miners (joined by several sympathetic law officers) rally. The forces of Good assert themselves in a final shootout with the company's hired hooligans; the strike is won, but at the cost of Cooper's life. Sayles' recreation of the era in which Matewan is set is impeccable; adding to the authenticity are several rousing pro-labor songs, written in the style of the period by Sayles himself. The superb cast of Matewan is comprised of several stalwarts of the John Sayles stock company, including David Strathairn, Jace Alexander, Gordon Clapp and Maggie Renzi (who also co produced the film).




    A review by the Washington Post
    Director John Sayle's Biography
    The unofficial homepage of John Sayles