Criterion Prediction #249: My Brother’s Wedding, by Alexander Miller
Title: My Brother’s Wedding
Director: Charles Burnett
Cast: Everett Silas, Gaye Shannon-Burnett, Jessie Holmes, Ronnie Bell, Sy Richardson
Synopsis: While everyone is preparing for his brother’s wedding, Pierce (Silas) must navigate the perils of his life in South Central Los Angeles. While he’s the best man for the ceremony, he resents his brother and his uptight bride. With the impending release of his childhood friend Soldier (Bell), Pierce must reconcile his mixed feelings and try to find his way a path to follow.
Critique: Another low-key masterpiece from the soft-spoken poet of subtly soulful cinema, My Brother’s Wedding is the perfect answer to Burnett’s debut, Killer of Sheep, as well as a fitting warm-up for To Sleep With Anger. It’s a more evolved film, but the verite framing and performances have a scuffed-up sincerity of a movie that’s assured as it is spontaneous, with a certifiable degree of mournful humor. Burnett’s a director that knows how to inhabit his characters with familial gesturing; there’s never any overt declarations of “who’s who” because we can feel that someone is talking to their mother, brother, or friend by the communicative gestures from the actors. My Brother’s Wedding is naturally engaging and Burnett’s intuitive execution emanates casual artistry that is rarely seen in modern cinema. It’s that feeling we get when style is absent in favor of something that can’t be taught, maybe it’s instinct or something else, but it’s evidence that Burnett’s not just a talented director, but a voice in American cinema.
Why It Belongs in the Collection: Some time ago, Burnett’s 1990 film To Sleep With Anger (CP#127) appeared here and I thought that was a long shot. It’s a great movie and its inclusion in this column was solely because I thought it was a terrific film. It wasn’t streaming on Criterion’s channel, nor was it hinted at (at the time) as a contender for a spine number. We’re better off that Burnett’s profile is raised thanks to the Criterion release of To Sleep With Anger and now you can see a restored print of My Brother’s Wedding on their streaming network. Hopefully, more of Burnett’s work will come to fore like To Sleep With Anger did. My Brother’s Wedding is a viable title. Let’s hope they also get to Killer of Sheep while we’re talking about his work.