Charles Burnett

Charles Burnett – My Brother’s Wedding (1983)

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My Brother’s Wedding is a tragic comedy that takes place in South Central Los Angeles. The story focuses on a young man who hasn’t made much of his life as of yet, and at a crucial point in his life, he is unable to make the proper decision, a sober decision, a moral decision. This is a consequence of his not having developed beyond the embryonic stage, socially. He has a distinct romantic notion about life in the ghetto and yet, in spite of his naive sensitivity, he is given the task of being his brother’s keeper; he feels rather than sees, and as a consequence his capacity for judging things off in the distance is limited. This brings about circumstances that weave themselves into a set of complexities which Pierce Mundy (Everett Silas), the main character, desperately tries to avoid. Read More »

Charles Burnett – To Sleep with Anger (1990)

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A slow-burning masterwork of the early 1990s, this third feature by Charles Burnett is a singular piece of American mythmaking. In a towering performance, Danny Glover plays the enigmatic southern drifter Harry, a devilish charmer who turns up out of the blue on the South Central Los Angeles doorstep of his old friends. In short order, Harry’s presence seems to cast a chaotic spell on what appeared to be a peaceful household, exposing smoldering tensions between parents and children, tradition and change, virtue and temptation. Interweaving evocative strains of gospel and blues with rich, poetic-realist images, To Sleep with Anger is a sublimely stirring film from an autonomous artistic sensibility, a portrait of family resilience steeped in the traditions of African American mysticism and folklore. Read More »

Charles Burnett – The Annihilation of Fish (1999)

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James Earl Jones and Lynn Redgrave star as mutually insane neighbors in a California apartment house who become romantically involved (she thinks she’s sexually intimate with Puccini, and he periodically wrestles with a demon of his own named Hank). Charles Burnett (Killer of Sheep, The Glass Shield) directed this whimsical, bittersweet 1999 feature, handling the actors with sensitivity, but the preciousness of Anthony C. Winkler’s screenplay, adapted from his own novel, only underlines how much better off Burnett is writing his own scripts (Nightjohn being an exception). With Margot Kidder.
Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader Read More »

Charles Burnett – Killer of Sheep [+Extra] (1979)

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The first feature film from acclaimed independent African American filmmaker Charles Burnett, this intensely emotional drama concerns a man who makes his living at a slaughterhouse as he struggles for economic and emotional survival and tries to patch up his often strained relationship with his family. Shot on weekends over a period of several years and first shown publicly in 1977, Killer of Sheep slowly but surely began to develop a potent reputation among film enthusiasts; in 1981, it won honors at the Berlin International Film Festival and an enthusiastic reception at the Sundance Film Festival. It was added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 1990. Read More »