To Sleep with Anger
Written and Directed by Charles Burnett
Cinematography by Walt Loyd
Watched on the Criterion Channel (Movie of the Week)
I'm a big film fan, but I'll be the first to admit there are some gaping blind spots in my cinema knowledge, that's why I signed up to be a charter member of the Criterion Channel as soon as I possibly could. They launch April 8th, but until then they're releasing a Movie of the Week and this weeks film was Charles Burnett's "To Sleep with Anger." Here's a few things I learned...
I'm ashamed to admit that I had never heard of Charles Burnett before this film (discovering "new" filmmakers like him is one of the many reasons I'm so excited for Criterion Channel to launch). "To Sleep with Anger" is a thoughtful and poetic family drama, with some great performances and a whole lot of imagery to chew on, but I was even more pleased to find (from watching the special features) that Mr. Burnett is just as thoughtful, insightful and mild mannered. You see so many "big personalities" in the film business, I always find it refreshing when I come across a writer or director that has the passion, but also seems down to Earth. It makes me think that there just might be a place for me in this business. Anyway, I'm glad to have finally discovered him and I'm anxious to check out the rest of his body of work.
Okay...I didn't learn about diversity and representation from this film, but I do think this film stands as a big, bright, shining example of why those things are so necessary. The specificity in which Burnett weaves his tale could only come from him and yet there's a universality to it all. I think art can be a lot of things, but one of my favorite is when an artist is wrestling with big ideas with which they might not have all the answers. A film like that is a gateway to perspective, empathy, and understanding and it's essential that those narratives come from a diverse and eclectic group of people (even more essential for someone like me to see them!). Besides, it's just refreshing! And different! And interesting! That's what we all want in a movie-watching experience, isn't it?