“Virtually plot-less, Sheep alternates its focus on Stan, his wife and kids, and the people in his Watts neighborhood, representing a community oppressed, yet teeming with life. Stan works at a slaughterhouse, and it’s changing him so much so his wife (Kaycee Moore) does not recognize him anymore. He’s distant, frowns, and has the thousand-yard stare. Outside, in the neighborhood, it’s dog-eat-dog. Kids and adults alike must fend for themselves. Children taunt, throw rocks, and wrestle with each other. Adults borrow, rob, or barter just to make it to the next day. Inside, in the homestead, however, life’s pressures dissolve for a little while. Home is haven, at least in Stan’s it is.” The 40th anniversary of Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep has Tanner Tafelski reminding us what a marvelous mix of diurnal struggle and daily grace it is. While Richard Brody orients it within the larger L.A. Rebellion movement by comparing it to Billy Woodbury’s contemporary study of work and manhood (written and photographed by Burnett), Bless Their Little Hearts. (“Where Burnett keeps the characters of Killer of Sheep in their neighborhood (Stan may work outside Watts but he seems to hardly touch the ground anywhere else), Woodberry starts outside Charlie’s local sphere, in the employment office, and continues to watch his characters as they pass, detached and rueful, through the wider city, in transit through a blasted post-industrial landscape in which Stan, in particular, sees his own enforced idleness reflected.”) Via—as so many of these entries always have been, even as a token number are acknowledged—David Hudson, who’s found a new home at Criterion.
Devoted to both the profound necessity and the sublime silliness of social interchange, Good Morning is therefore much subtler and grander than it might initially appear to be. Commonly identified as a remake of Ozu’s silent 1932 masterpiece I Was Born, But . . ., also included in this release, it is even more interesting for its differences with that film than for its similarities—above all, the difference between what a father’s authority meant in prewar versus postwar Japan…. [The] more pervasive humor of Good Morning extends to the rebellion itself and all it engenders, as well as the local intrigues surrounding it; one no longer feels that the father’s authority is a monument that can be toppled.” Jonathan Rosenbaum traces both the formal complexity and no less dazzling humanity in Ozu’s two comic masterpieces.