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Killer of Sheep


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Guest nardis

Doug C posted about this film in another thread. While listening to All Things Considered today, I found out that this film is going to be rereleased - and shown in theaters.

The reason for the film being in limbo for so long: A copyright dispute regarding many of the songs used in the film.

Edit: Link to story.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm looking forward to finally getting to see this movie.

Note: here's a link to the official film site.

Edited by nardis
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Thanks for all the links nardis. I have been reading the other thread and have become quite interested.

...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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  • 2 months later...

Coming to Vancouver August 3-9.

Victor Morton's review:

The reputation of this hand-to-mouth film shot on the streets of Watts during weekends with nonprofessional actors, has traversed from legendary little-seen film-maudit (because Burnett could not afford the music rights, it could neither get a real theatrical run nor ever be released on video) to part of the consensual American canon (declared a national treasure by the Library of Congress in 1990 and rapturously reviewed now, in its commercial release) without ever managing to pass through "great."

Don't get me wrong -- everybody who imagines himself as having a serious interest in American movies, in black movies, in independent movies, in non-narrative movies, or movies, period, should see KILLER OF SHEEP, both for its intrinsic value (it is a strong film, and superb in some ways) and for its historical value. The director leaves you no doubt he is capable of masterpieces. But this film isn't it; it feels more like a rough draft for a masterpiece than a masterpiece. . . .

As I've said, when Burnett orchestrates faces, images and music, KILLER OF SHEEP is masterful. But when the characters open their mouths to speak, it falls flat. I'm amazed how few of those hosanna-in-excelsis Rotten Tomatoes reviews note what I think is the most obvious thing about this movie. That the acting is very poor. And in some cases, outright terrible, particularly in the supporting roles. . . .

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 6 months later...

Buying the DVD -- with this film, two cuts of the marvelous My Brother's Wedding, and four Burnett shorts -- is the most gratifying purchase I've made this year. And yet, I haven't watched the discs yet! (Saw both features at the Virginia Film Festival a few months ago.) It looks great, though, from all appearances.

Does anyone else have the DVD?

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Watched it in two parts as a way of giving myself a break from writing this week. Watched the second part tonight.

It's extraordinary. It reminded me of seeing Wings of Desire for the first time. I can tell I've just had my first visit to something that's going to become a favorite.

I saw this because of Christian's enthusiasm here, and because of Doug Cummings' high praise in the past. But now I realize I need to read whatever I can find about this film. It seems like the work of one of the masters, comparable to favorite films by Ozu and Tarkovsky. And it seems like it must have been made by someone who was familiar with their work. And it was made in L.A. Thirty years ago. Crazy.

Edited by Jeffrey Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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So the acting didn't seem poor to you, the way it did to Morton? Or if it did, it didn't bother you?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Watched it in two parts as a way of giving myself a break from writing this week. Watched the second part tonight.

It's extraordinary. It reminded me of seeing Wings of Desire for the first time. I can tell I've just had my first visit to something that's going to become a favorite.

I saw this because of Christian's enthusiasm here, and because of Doug Cummings' high praise in the past. But now I realize I need to read whatever I can find about this film. It seems like the work of one of the masters, comparable to favorite films by Ozu and Tarkovsky. And it seems like it must have been made by someone who was familiar with their work. And it was made in L.A. Thirty years ago. Crazy.

Glad you liked it. I can't remember who said it, but at the VA Film Fest, where I saw Killer of Sheep and My Brother's Wedding, someone said that if Sheep were an Italian film from the 1950s, film fans would have every shot memorized. It's that kind of film -- up there with the neorealist masterpieces of the mid 20th Century. My own tastes don't truck so much with those films, however, so I was glad to respond so strongly to Sheep. Maybe it's time for me to bone up on those Italian films that never made a huge impression on my when I first watched them, about a decade ago.

As for poor acting, this is the charge from Sonny Bunch in The Weekly Standard as well, who wrote of being miffed by the film, which he described as "amateurish" and of poor quality. That's an amazing charge. I'm not sure if it's completely unfair, or simply beside the point. Sheep was a student film, made with nonprofessional actors. The seams show. But to miss the film's power because the actors aren't Hollywood trained is quite startling. Professional actors would've worked against the film, I think.

Do you have the DVD, Jeff? I'd love to hear your thoughts on My Brother's Wedding. I bought the DVD set two weeks ago, but I'm still drowning in 2007 films that I'd like to see before revisiting the Burnett features.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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The acting did seem "amateurish" ... but (and I can't really explain this yet) somehow that enhanced the experience for me. It didn't bother me at all. It kept the piece in a strange place of tension between "theater" and realism, whereas something wholly realistic might have distracted me from the more poetic aspirations of the film. (This is also true of Wings of Desire. There are moments when the film departs from realism in ways that encourage us to read it more as poetry than faux-documentary.)

No, I haven't had time to watch the other short films attached to the DVD. (I Netflixed the DVD.) And I won't for a few weeks. Nothing but editing for me for a couple of weeks now.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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  • 5 weeks later...

My wife and I watched this yesterday with differing opinions. I likened it to Frozen, which we saw at Palm Springs. Both are b&w, both are more an experience of life rather than story, both have a languid pacing. My wife liked Frozen quite a bit, while I never really got into it. With Killer of Sheep we reversed. Part of that is that Frozen has starkly beautiful scenery in the Himalayas, and my wife loves beautiful films. She also likes to see cultures that seem strange and alien to us. I could understand Killer at a much more intimate level than I could with Frozen; it made sense as I watched, especially Stan's sense of impotence.

(Note about Frozen: 2007, India, Directed by Shivajee Chandrabushan. I would expect chances of it getting a release approach nil; chance of DVD slightly better)

A foreign movie can't be stupid.

-from the film
Armin

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Darrell, did you watch the DVD? Are you and your wife going to watch My Brother's Wedding? (oh please oh please oh please oh please...)

I've resorted to begging.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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I also taped it. Then I proceeded to watch it.

I couldn't sit past five minutes of it. It's already deleted from my queue.

I'm not saying the film was poor. I think for a student film, it was probably what it needed to be. But I just couldn't get beyond those first five minutes.

Nick Alexander

Keynote, Worship Leader, Comedian, Parodyist

Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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  • 1 year later...

A recent Criterion newsletter included a cartoon figure of a child wearing a dog mask down in the corner.

It just occurred to me what that means.

Awesome.

Wasn't it about a year ago that the cartoon of an angel statue appeared in that corner, and now we have Criterion's edition of Wings of Desire?

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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The Milestone DVD will be hard to beat. It had an entire extra feature-length film on it! (And a pretty great one.)

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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For future reference.

_dog_face-killer-of-sheep-sm.jpg\

And no, I can't think of any other kid dog masks. I can't help but think this film plays better now than it did then anyway. It out-Korined Korine before that kind of student film was even possible.

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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  • 3 years later...

Mark Cousins has a really interesting interview with Charles Burnett in The Story of Film (episode 9, starting around half an hour in). He talks about his experience at the UCLA film school and his first exposure to black directors (he mentions Ousmane Sembene), and some of the ideas and goals he had for Killer of Sheep.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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