2 April 2004 | alcorb
a very good, un-recognized film
After seeing other Burnett features, I actually liked this one the best. It portrays the life of Pierce, an African American man living in a poor area of LA, but it is completely different than other "life in the ghetto" films, particularly of the 1990s. Burnett focuses on the details of ordinary life, with close-ups of shoes, leaves, etc.--the things that form our everyday experience. Scenes that might become "action sequences" in another film are here treated in an de-sensationalized way, as normal events alongside other events like running to catch the bus or taking care of your grandparents. It puts a great deal of emphasis on humor, the quirky relationships between family members, and the way that feelings build up without dramatic movie conversations. It feels like real life; it doesn't sweep you up in emotion like a melodrama, but rather forces you to experience the film at a slight distance, but not so much that it become unpleasurable-- just enough to make you consider the issues the film brings up.
In his comments after a screening I attended, Burnett said that the film to him is about responsibility. The main character Pierce is constantly doing things for others and doesn't seem to have his own goals in life. The title comes from the conflict Pierce faces towards the end of the film: does he attend his best friend's funeral or his brother's wedding? This dilemma illustrates Pierce's indecision and also the way that he is torn between his brother's upwardly mobile lifestyle and his own aimless wanderings around the city with his ex-con best friend.
All in all, I would urge you to try to see this film--it was unavailable for a long time, but is now on a double DVD set with Killer of Sheep. Burnett's work gives a completely different take on African American cinema, one that has not been recognized in the mainstream.