Monday, September 15, 2008

KILLER OF SHEEP (Charles Burnett, 1977/2007, USA) Stan’s cloying life is eked out from this dusty bitter Earth, growing old, killing sheep, while carrying a sleepless existential burden. His life is motionless, like a broken engine disengaged from its rusting mount, attuned to the corrosive silence of the junkyard. This black and white poem lacks a driving narrative; the plot is rambling and unstructured. The invisible camera befriends Stan as we invade his most private life, voyeur into his most intimate moments…if only for a few days. The conversational dialogue is realistically stuttered and epithets are spat out, while the camera lingers upon a sweaty close-up or grimy, soiled composition. Stan’s working class world of Watts is far removed from the conventional film-world: it is a place of despair, crime, crumbling houses, dirty children, and hopelessness. But Director Charles Burnett never lets the audience forget that real people live here, good people who were born into this environment, whose aspirations are basically human: they want a better life. Stan stumbles through his daily grind, wanting a new job, needing a new car, trying to teach his son important values about being a man, but quite distant from his loving wife. Perhaps he carries the shame of poverty, the guilt that he has become a failure unable to provide for his family. But he holds to his moral standard: he doesn’t descend into a murderous crime to temporarily staunch this spiritual hemorrhage. This is a powerful message to both his sons; this is proof that he is a man. Burnett’s American Ghetto neo-realism captures children playing in the dirt, throwing rocks at trains (and each other), laughing, crying, skipping rope in a dingy alley, skateboarding, being chased by dogs, cruelly picking on each other: slice-of-life images that transcend social strata and become accessible to every viewer. He captures the atmosphere of a documentary without the intrusiveness or polemics; his is the politic of humanity. (B+)

No comments: