A long-inaccessible bridge between Killer of Sheep (1977) and To Sleep with Anger (1990), this recently reedited companion piece shows Charles Burnett honing his narrative edge for the latter while remaining true to the muted grandeur of the former. Plainly transitional and awkward by comparison, it’s still never less than engrossing.
Using a nonprofessional cast à la Sheep, Burnett follows Watts man-boy Pierce Mundy (Silas) as he loafs around in the dry-cleaning store owned by his mother (the scene-stealing Holmes) and makes rounds as a reluctant caretaker to various friends and family members. The pending nuptials of his more outwardly successful sib (Easter) and the parole of a troublemaking pal (Bell) converge to underscore how this untenable routine both gives Pierce’s life meaning and drains it of independence.
If Burnett doesn’t always have a sure grip on Wedding’s theatrical, pointedly amateurish milieu (the titular thread is particularly flat-footed), the story gains uncommon power by what goes unsaid and unresolved. And, as ever, it’s a joy to look at and listen to: Burnett’s movies are quite unlike anyone else’s, and the only real drawback emphasized here is that he doesn’t make more of them.