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Review of YES: Screenplay and Notes by Sally Potter

In an era of widespread dissemination and collection of films through broadcast and home-video outlets, the published screenplay has lost some of its usefulness. Nevertheless, published screenplays allow a different, literary experience of the screenwriter's art, which can be appreciated as the blueprint of a film; of course, such books can also provide contexts for the screenplay and the film. Newmarket Press' published screenplay to Sally Potter's film YES fulfills all of these functions for a very worthy film, and one that lends itself naturally to the page due to its verse form. Potter's words, arranged on a page, escape from the undercurrent and regain their full poetic form.

In her Foreword, Potter explains the origin of the film and the book's contents: A Letter by John Berger, the Introduction by Pankaj Mishra, the continuity screenplay (that is, the script as represented by the final cut of the film), "The Original Five-Minute Script" that suggested the film (which Potter explains here), a Q&A with Sally Potter and Joan Allen, Cast and Crew Credits, and Sally Potter's bio (the 144-page book, available in paperback and hardcover, also includes 14 pages of production photos, mostly in color).

The letter from Berger (acclaimed novelist, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, art historian, and painter) to his friend Sally Potter offers congratulations and thematic reflections on the art and its artist. Novelist and essayist Mishra puts YES in a historical context of the problems of racism and aggressive Western cultural hegemony; in so doing, Mishra makes evocative use of a James Baldwin essay.

About the screenplay, I will only refer you to my review of the film, which refers specifically to Potter's writing and themes. The Five-Minute Script is the full screenplay's spicy seed, a dream-like pair of interior monologues that resemble an angry dialogue; here are "He" and "She" in their nascent but already vivid forms. The sixteen-page Q&A—actually a distillation of post-screening Q&As at the Telluride, Toronto, and London film festivals—answers the frequently asked questions that the film's audiences had for its director and female star. You can read here my own Qs for Sally Potter and Joan Allen, and their As.

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