4 films I highly recommend.
Killer of Sheep – This 1977 film by Charles Burnett which has been called a masterpiece by countless critics has just recently been given its first official release. The film was made as Burnett’s thesis film at USC when he was 33. It was made for under $10,000, used several songs which couldn’t be cleared, and was until this year only available to be seen on a few rough 16mm prints. Well it took 30 years but it’s now been given the blow up to 35 and is screening throughout the country. I’d seen clips over the years and was always drawn to its dreamy b&w images. So when I heard about the release I was eager to see it in its entirety. It’s very much a slice of life film, composed of scenes which at times feel like perfect little daydreams, rather than pieces of a narrative. There isn’t much story, it’s rather a portrait of a family, and of the Watts neighborhood in LA in the late seventies. If you’re a fan of films like George Washington, and Gummo you’d probably appreciate the poetic beauty in just experiencing moments in the lives of these characters. The cinematography is always interesting. There is always stuff happening just outside the frame, and there is a real playfulness to the compositions in general. The use of classic R&B songs is another thing I loved. See it if you have a chance and are in the mood for something different.
Red Road – Not sure If I liked it as much as Bake, but definitely liked it a lot. Was on the edge of my seat throughout. This film commands your attention. I love narratives that incorporate voyeurism, and this is a good one.
Yi Yi – This is one of my favorite films of the last decade. A three hour long drama that interweaves stories of various members of a family living in Taipei. Saw it a few years back and was blown away. Recently rented it and it was equally as spellbound. Must be seen to be understood. A great work of art. Demands a little patience as it is a long slow moving film, but I promise it’s worth the effort.
The Great World of Sound – First film by Craig Zobel, who’s been one of David Gordon Green’s producers since George Washington. This time around Green serves as one of his producers. Premiered at Sundance out of competition. Big mistake on Sundance’s part. Could’ve picked up some awards. I saw it at ND/NF. Magnolia is releasing it in the Fall. The film is about a scam in the record industry called “song sharking”. So called record producers go from town to town placing ads in newspapers looking for the next great band. They set up auditions in hotel rooms and essentially convince people they will make them famous, but the catch is they have to put up some of their own money. The narrative combines elements of Salesmen, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Office, and American Idol. And it works beautifully and feels like something original. The lead performances by Pat Healy and Kene Holliday are fantastic. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is nominated for some Spirit Awards, especially for Holliday.