Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Movie: Killer of Sheep

I accidentally caught the second half of the movie Killer of Sheep on TMC (Turner Classic Movies). While the name almost made me skip right past it, I bravely tuned in to see what it was about.

In 1977, Charles Burnett finished this film for $10K, which was destined to be lost but not forgotten for almost 30 years. Per the L.A. Times,
"A portrait of a working-class Watts neighborhood, "Killer of Sheep" is considered a landmark of American independent film. But it was never meant to be shown commercially and was shelved for years because Burnett never secured the music rights."
When it was finally released, the critics couldn't get enough.
"It was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress and named one of the "100 Essential Films" by the National Society of Film Critics."
It's a really interesting movie. A black & white look at a black family in poverty-stricken Watts. But that's where the synopsis ends. There is no storyline, per se. There is no plot. A Wikipedia quote describes it as "a collection of brief vignettes which are so loosely connected that it feels at times like you're watching a non-narrative film."

This movie is not for everyone. Nor is it appropriate at all times. In some respects it's like a silent or foreign film because you have to concentrate to get the penetrating effect of the imagery, and really appreciate the emotion behind each human interaction. The characters feel so real, it's hypnotic. There's relatively very little dialogue, but the music is touching; almost a character itself. It's a quiet film filled with the viewers' preconceived notions about life, struggles, and happiness. So don't get caught up in the praise people have thrust on the movie because it's very subjective. Go in with an open mind.

If you're interested in catching it, it's on Netflix, though you might also check your library for copies. You can buy the box set on Amazon, though some reviewers don't think much of the packaging. If you're lucky, maybe you can catch a local screening. And for kicks, here's a trailer to inspire you.