Friday, June 15, 2007


The second of two movies I saw yesterday* at DC's E Street Cinema* was Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep (1977),* a gritty documentary-style slice of sociology made for pocket change as Burnett's MFA thesis at UCLA. The film gently presents life in Los Angeles's Watts neighborhood through Stan, a husband and father suffering disconnection with his life. Stan's existential crisis is profound, the central observation about that imperfect world where impoverishment gives way to the lower middle class. Satisfaction is hard is find between soul-crushing days at the local sheep processing plant and long sleepless nights. While he fights to maintain some sense of self-esteem for the sake of the kids, Stan's helpless to dredge up the energy or humanity necessary for a relationship with his wife. Mostly he sleepwalks, finding solace in housework or small moments of nostalgia: a favorite song or a cup of coffee. Around him, the world exists in many forms engaging and banal: children play in the dirt of a construction site, friends gather to throw dice, every now and then the train rumbles by. This movie documents the trials and trivialities of life just beyond the ghetto, revealing more questions than answers. Or maybe that's not it; maybe it only reveals what is, and postulates that there are no questions or answers. Stan's wife is desperate to engage her husband, and there's some evidence that she's making headway--though these scenes, as always, are crowded by uncomfortable abattoir footage from Stan's slaughterhouse workdays. This movie, a favorite of festival circuits and the Library of Congress National Film Registry,* was long seen only in degrading 16mm prints. Recently, finally, it has been remastered, its music rights secured, and made available in a pristine version rescuing the versatile contrast of its excellent photography. Recommended. [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

Post a Comment

<< Back to the Beginner.
<< To main Update page.