Friday, September 9, 2016
Charles Burnett became known to world cinema when his 1978 UCLA thesis film, Killer of Sheep, won the Critics’ Prize at the 1981 Berlin Film Festival. His legendary reputation among cinephiles never quite segued into mainstream recognition, even though his 1990 drama To Sleep with Anger—novelistic in its narrative density and rich characterization—is one of the finest films about the black experience in modern America. Danny Glover (also the film’s executive producer) stars as Harry Mention, a mysterious drifter from the South who visits an old acquaintance (Paul Butler), now leading a middle-class life with his family in South Central Los Angeles. Though imbued with charm and traditional manners, Harry has a knack for mischief that creates powerful rifts throughout the family. Burnett’s overlooked masterpiece connects the past to the present in emotionally resonant ways, making this film as imaginative and insightful as his debut feature. To Sleep with Anger returns to the Film Society in a beautiful digital restoration. A Sony Pictures release.