Killer of Sheep examines the black Los Angeles ghetto of Watts in the mid-1970s through the eyes of Stan, a sensitive dreamer who is growing detached and numb from the psychic toll of working at a slaughterhouse.
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'This bitter earth, what fruit it bears'. Dinah Washington's song couldn't be more apt in this indie classic looking at an extended family getting by. Famously made for about 5K as an UCLA student thesis film it withstood the passing of time and is now rightly regarded as an essential piece of American cinema history. Poignant, thoughtful, mesmerizing and timeless.
Truly melancholic forms construct a beautiful representation of the afro-american community in a Los Angeles ghetto. But some incoherent aesthetic choices (the somehow artificial dialogues, the extra-diegetic music and the general bad acting) compromise the hyper-realist tone of the film and ruin lots and lots of otherwise potentially great scenes. The result is a flawed curiosity.
Honestly, I found it to be really uninteresting. While Killer of Sheep had the potential to be a great film, it completely bypasses that opportunity with a script that creates only a vague impression of story and character. Mostly we just watch grungy people do grungy things, and it comes off as a forceful attempt at transcendence. Nice compositions though.
The emotional nostalgia generated by this film is utterly singular in American cinema, especially those beautiful moments where Charles Burnett's keen ear for music perfectly accentuates the image at hand. The power dynamics in each scene are volatile and occasionally bothersome, but the overall lack of pretension is very refreshing.
Didn't love it as much as I wanted to but I have to admit that it's extremely impressive. I think its one of those films that's more important than it is great. The cinematography and use of music was perfect. The use of the song This Bitter Earth was some of the best use of music I've ever seen. I think the super realistic feel sometimes worked for the film strongly and sometimes worked against it. Overall very good
I've seen the film three times now. This last time it seemed to me like a precursor of In Vanda's Room as if directed by one of Vanda's neighbors. Burnet knows what he is filming as deeply as any director has known what she or he films. Exquisite depth of field shots allow you to enter a world and strip away your preconceptions. Some of the acting is subpar but it hardly matters. The dance scene kills me every time.
It seems somehow inspired by the french new wave and its fresh way of making films : go outside with a small crew and no money and film spontaneously your people (the youth there, the black community here). The one you usually don't get to see on screen. The directing though evokes more Flaherty, where everything is staged but still appear as genuine as can be (here it is never about the plot). Wonderful score.