Monday, June 2, 2008
Slept on films part 2
So it seems that Charles Burnett is one of the unsung heroes of American cinema. I was in Detroit a few months ago, up late and flipping channels, when I was struck by the gritty, early eighties feel of a film I'd never seen before. It was Burnett's "My Brother's Wedding" (1983). It had just started, so I watched the whole joint. Using a cast of amateurs and non-actors, Burnett tells the story of Pierce, an intelligent but disaffected young man working in his family's dry-cleaning business in Watts, Los Angeles. Pierce's blue collar ideology conflicts with the ambitions of his upwardly mobile brother, and he eventually becomes torn between attending his brother's wedding, and being there for an old ex-convict friend (who, strangely, is named Soldier Boy). The film is rough around the edges, but incredibly direct and earnest in it's depiction of family relationships and Pierce's struggle to figure out what he is doing with his life. It is also visually striking, and quite plainly, beautiful.
Certainly, worth a watch if you can find it.
One of Burnett's earlier films, "Killer of Sheep" (1977) was also on that night. It was also ill, but much looser in the narrative sense. Here is a clip.
I think part of the reason I like these films is that I am fascinated with the Watts towers, and hence with Watts itself. This little film tells the story of how Simon Rodia realized his vision over a period of 30 years. Simply incredible.