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  • 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.
  • Milestone released two films by Charles Burnett last fall. His acclaimed Killer of Sheep, and this lesser known film. This film was originally released in 1983, but has been re-cut and re-released. This is the 2007 version that I am reviewing.

    The slice of life that we see in this film is interesting, but confined mostly to dialog, with little action. Everett Silas stars as Pierce, an individual who is torn by his loyalty to his no-good friend, and his family. This is put to the test on Saturday as his friend dies on his brother's wedding day.

    It is the little things that I found fascinating in this film - the fact that a 16-year-old is constantly flirting with Pierce, who is 30; the stark contrast with Pierce, a working man, and his brother the professional, and the siding of Pierce's mother with wealth; the two people he cares for who can't bathe themselves or take their medicine, and their preoccupation with religion, which also is huge with Pierce's mother. There is a wealth of material to draw upon for reflection, and Burnett has given us a good film.

    I can't wait to see the original.
  • My Brother's Wedding (1983) was written and directed by Charles Burnett. I wanted and expected to enjoy this film, but I didn't.

    There's an interesting backstory to the production. The movie was financed by a German TV corporation, which demanded a product by the agreed-upon deadline. Director Burnett gave them a long, rough cut version, that was widely praised in Germany. What we are seeing now is billed as a 78-minute director's cut, released by Milestone. Sounds interesting. Unfortunately, the resulting movie didn't work for me.

    The talented Everett Silas plays Pierce Mundy, a young man who lives and works in South Central Los Angeles. Pierce is a good guy--well liked in the neighborhood, not involved in crime or drugs, and willing to care for his elderly relatives. If anything, he's too nice a guy, because he's loyal to his friend Soldier. Soldier has just been released from prison, and he's looking for trouble. (Or, at least, trouble finds him. Some of the plot involving Soldier appears to have been lost in the editing process.)

    Probably for economic reasons, Director Burnett cast non-actors in all the other roles. That's a risky gamble. Some directors can pull amazing performances from amateurs, but Burnett could not. Most of the acting is at the level of a high school's senior class play. The people look right, but when they speak it doesn't sound at all natural. (Yes--that's a paradox. You have to be a trained actor to sound like someone who isn't a trained actor. Paradox or not, there it is.)

    I respect the fact that other reviewers enjoyed this film. I was prepared to enjoy it too, but, even at 78 minutes, it dragged on and on for me. There weren't that many African-American directors working on serious films in the 1980's. So, for historical reasons, you may consider this film worth seeking out. However, I didn't enjoy it, and, as much as I would like to, I can't recommend it.

    Incidentally, we saw this movie at the excellent Dryden Theatre of Eastman House in Rochester, NY. One of the other reviewers said it's available on DVD, but Dryden showed a Blu-Ray version. In any case, the film will work well on the small screen.
  • It was great to view this film by Charles Burnett, who wrote the story and directed the film and also did the camera work. Burnett was working on a budget and was able to obtain left over color film from MGM who were willing to sell him this film for his picture. This film deals mostly with a great actor, Pierce Mundy, (Everett Silas) who is a hard working son in his mother and fathers dry cleaning business and Pierce is a very kind and giving person who cares for his mother and father and takes good care of his grandparents. Pierce has a brother who has become a lawyer and he intends to marry a very rich pretty young gal and Pierce does not seem to get along with his brother or his future in-laws. The film is very funny and it also has its serious moments where Pierce has to face a decision whether to attend his brothers wedding or go to his best friends funeral. Don't miss this film, it is a great masterpiece by Charles Burnett.
  • JohnSeal12 February 2008
    Warning: Spoilers
    Killer of Sheep is the film that made writer-director Charles Burnett's reputation, but My Brother's Wedding is by far the superior film in all respects. Shot in colour, the film eschews the poetic excesses of Sheep in favour of a slight but utterly riveting story about a working-class African-American family who operate a laundry in South Central Los Angeles. Burnett's screenplay is pitch perfect, and the amateur cast simply outstanding. My Brother's Wedding is everything Killer of Sheep isn't, and frankly a much better entry point for the Charles Burnett neophyte. If you want to get a good, unvarnished look at African-American life in the 1980s, look no further. This is a great film.
  • A film of moments in the life of a family in a black neighborhood in LA; mundane waiting behind the counter in the dry cleaning family business, goofy wrestling with the father in the backroom, helping the aging 'aunt' take her pills and reading to her from the bible, the old friend who comes out of prison, walking, standing around in front porches, teasing, eating grub in the small kitchen.

    Yes the acting is mostly stodgy, the plot, whatever plot there is, very threadbare; a disillusioned son has to come to terms with his svelte brother's upcoming marriage to an upper class lawyer, his own life going nowhere and loss of more innocent times.

    Yet I'll have this over a dozen Spike Lee films.

    There is some reactionary sentiment but it is not bolstered by cutesy cinematic tricks, it does not yank us from 'real' presence in the film to Brechtian distance. The film does not emphasize the moral or political dimension, but simply the bedrock of frustrated life. It is enjoyable not because of quirks, but truthful ordinariness. It is atmospheric, but only because our gaze is transparent and the world seems vibrant, immediate in the way of Cassavetes. What truth is here is not so much for me in the squabbling and grievance, but in the fact that I can almost reach out to touch the cheap formica counter. Here's where the nonacting pays off; having Samuel Jackson in there would ruin the thing.

    Normally, I'm not a fan of neorealism which this film owes to, until it was transmuted by Rossellini/Antonioni onwards to be simultaneously about the reality and landscape of mind, but I'm also a sucker for places and atmospheres I can visit. I saw this for my cinematic Los Angeles project, and already know I will return to it in the future; in its permeating sense of place, it joins The Exiles, Killer of Sheep, The Long Goodbye, Angel City, Killing of a Chinese Bookie.