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Film 50: History of Cinema

Wednesday, April 8, 2009
3:00 p.m. Killer of Sheep
Charles Burnett (U.S., 1977)

Lecture by Marilyn Fabe

Special admission prices apply: General admission, $11.50; BAM/PFA members, $7.50; UC Berkeley students, $5.50; Seniors, disabled persons, UC Berkeley faculty and staff, non–UC Berkeley students, and youth 17 and under, $8.50.

“A great—the greatest—cinematic tone poem of American urban life” (David Edelstein, New York), Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep evokes the everyday trials, fragile pleasures, and tenacious humor of blue-collar African Americans in 1970s Watts. Burnett made the film on a minuscule budget with a mostly nonprofessional cast, combining keen on-the-street observation with a carefully crafted script. The episodic plot centers on the character of Stan, a slaughterhouse worker mired in exhaustion, disconnected from his wife, his children, and himself. Stan and his neighbors struggle just to get by, let alone get ahead; as befits an L.A. movie, vehicular metaphors of breakdown abound. Only the kids, leaping from roof to roof, seem to achieve a mobility that eludes their elders.

—Juliet Clark

• Written, Photographed by Burnett. With Henry Gayle Sanders, Kaycee Moore, Charles Bracy, Angela Burnett. (81 mins, B&W, 35mm, From Milestone)

Preceded by short:
What Mozart Saw on Mulberry Street (Rudy Burckhardt, U.S., 1956, 6 mins, B&W, 16mm, From Film-makers’ Cooperative)

• (Total running time: 87 mins)