Charles Burnett x 3
So rare is Killer of Sheep director Charles Burnett’s second feature film, My Brother’s Wedding (1983), that when I asked Burnett himself about the movie as recently as a year ago, he told me he didn’t own a copy. Now, thanks to the redoubtable efforts of Milestone Film & Video and the Pacific Film Archive, this long-missing piece in Burnett’s lyrical trilogy of Los Angeles African-American life (bookended by Killer on one side and To Sleep with Anger on the other) has resurfaced in a fully restored and reedited director’s cut some 30 minutes shorter than the original version. (For the curious, both edits will be available on the forthcoming DVD release.) Like the story it tells, the making of My Brother’s Wedding was a tragicomedy of errors, during which lead actor Everette Silas quit — twice — causing Burnett to fall behind schedule and ultimately resulting in an unfinished rough cut being hurried into festivals by the film’s German producers (whereupon it received a pan in The New York Times and promptly disappeared from distributors’ radars). For all those hardships, however, My Brother’s Wedding feels seamless in its charting of the misfortunes of a laid-off Watts machinist who helps out in his family’s dry-cleaning store and struggles to keep a childhood friend on the right side of the law in the days leading up to his brother’s marriage to the uppity daughter of a wealthy doctor. The film itself weds the intricate narrative machinations of classical Hollywood farce to Burnett’s neo-realist eye for the vicissitudes of everyday neighborhood life, resulting in a finely nuanced portrait of race and class differentials in black America. The UCLA Film & Television Archive presents the local premiere of the My Brother’s Wedding director’s cut as part of a triple bill that also includes screenings of Killer of Sheep and Quiet As Kept, Burnett’s 2007 short film about Hurricane Katrina. (UCLA Film & Television Archive at the Billy Wilder Theater; Sat., Oct. 27, 7:30 p.m. www.cinema.ucla.edu)
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