Thursday, August 16, 2007

Killer of Sheep

Saw Charles Burnett's 1971 Killer of Sheep, a made-on-a-shoestring indie classic which I'm afraid did not much affect me. I'll grant that the director creates arresting black and white images and that he got an awful lot of mileage out his $10,000 budget, but I spent most of the film's 83 minute running time waiting for it to take off, which I guess was the wrong way to watch it, because it has a lot more to do with ambience and mood than story -- which, okay, I'm down with, considering how many times I've watched Antonioni and Life is Sweet and any number of Italian Neo-Realist classics. Unfortunately, this story of a poor black family man who works in a slaughterhouse killing sheep -- and (unless I'm reaching too far) whose life seems to follow a similar track to his victims, guided by uncontrollable forces that will gradually strip him to nothing and then carve him up -- just did not pull me in, despite my efforts to involve myself. Nothing much happens in it, which I guess was the point: to hold up a mirror and show life as it is. Sometimes that's enough, but not in this case. The film seemed to me to just wander a lot, to dawdle on nothing much.

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