Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Devil Is Beating His Wife

Killer Of Sheep Directed by Charles Burnett(1977)

"How come it rains daddy?" "Cus the devil is beating his wife." I like the soundtrack, and the laid-back pace and structure of the narrative. There's some themes, but they never invade the film, just play out and rub up against the images. The re occurring images of the sheep being lead to slaughter, gives the movie some bleak and harsh sub-text, listen for Paul Robeson's "America" after one such scene. The music is the movies greatest strength, because it really transforms some scenes, the dance in the living room, as the phrase, "this bitter earth..." comes up over and over in refrain, (the movie ends with this song too. And was intended as a thesis in African American music). But there's some other scenes, whose images I'd experienced, but never really seen reflected on screen before. The opening where a young boy is berated for not assisting his brother in a fight (which the younger brother may have started and deserved), to the "climactic" trip to country, at the end, there's an honesty and a naturalism (NOT realism), that makes this movie easy to watch, even at two a.m., as I did. Also "The Devil Is Beating His Wife" is one of my favorite Pedro The Lion songs (whether or not it has anything to do with this film, or is just an old expression, used in this film as well...I haven't the foggiest.) At this point it occurs to me, I havent said a thing about the story to "The Killer Of Sheep", to remedy, "The Killer Of Sheep" is a series of vignettes about the lives of a few black characters living in Watts, in the late seventies (where my father was born), largely focusing on a tired butcher who kills and skins sheep all day. The story, in those few words, does not communicate the beauty and grace, of the film as a whole, which is much more than the sum of its parts. Also notworthy because it was made by a black director in a time when the only films associated with a black audience were blacksploitation films, stories of gangsters, crooks, and cops; film noir for the "new urban audience". Anyway this is probably the best student film ever made, at least, as far as I know, it's the only one, to be added to the Library Of Congress. Steven Soderberg(directer of Oceans 11 and 12) paid out of his own pocket to get the rights to all of the films music(illegally in it's initial release). So dream big kids.

No comments: