MY BROTHER?S WEDDING (Charles Burnett). 85 minutes. Screens Friday and Sunday (November 23 and 25) at Cinematheque. Rating: NN
Killer Of Sheep, Charles Burnett's 1977 neo-realist portrait of life in black L.A., is pretty much a masterpiece. To Sleep With Anger (1990), with its star cast (Danny Glover, Richard Brooks, Vonetta McGee) and compellingly sly story of blues roots tended in the concrete modern world, is pretty much a masterpiece.
Between those two films, Burnett started but didn't finish My Brother's Wedding (1983) , which is finally getting a brief release prior to coming out on DVD. It isn't a masterpiece or anything close to it. Like Killer Of Sheep, it was made with a tiny budget and amateur actors. But it has a lot more dramatic ambition - a sizable cast of characters and a lot of plot complications.
At this point in his career, Burnett was setting himself a challenge he couldn't meet, which may explain why the film languished for two decades.
The story of a class conflict between two brothers, it is dramatically unshaped and visually claustrophobic, and the cast lacks the chops to bring off the things the director needs. And it is a very talky movie.
Burnett would have been better off remaking it than restoring it. But don't miss To Sleep With Anger, which screens November 26.