Killer Of Sheep

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Stan, a normal guy who works in drudgery at a slaughterhouse, must struggle against influences that would dishonour his drab but adoring family.


Sometimes you just have to make allowances. Henry Gayle Sanders isn’t much of an actor, and writer-director Charles Burnett has a tin ear for dialogue. But the slaughterman’s hulking, gloomy presence reinforces this film’s lament for the dehumanising impact of poverty, and even Renoir would envy Burnett’s eye for an image. The film also boasts a heartbreaking soundtrack and was made, at weekends, for under $10,000. So, for all its faults, this has to be one of the all-time great directorial debuts, as it captures life in South Central LA in 1977, with all the bustle, degradation and misplaced optimism that have to be endured en route to our miserable end.

Despite its very obvious faults, this is actually something of a masterpiece.