December 11, 2012
Review of ‘The Long Game: Conversations with Independent Iconoclasts Roger Corman, George A. Romero, and Charles Burnett’
The expression “playing the long game” has recently become one of my touchstones, being a bit of an “iconoclast” m’self…
Anyway, the Corman book sounds as inspirational as you’d expect. He’s the squarest “punk rocker” ever, and one of the first, even though he’ probably doesn’t realize it.
Killer of Sheep would, of course, go on to become one of the legendary debuts of the American cinema, but its early Critics Award at the Berlin Film Festival did not ensure a theatrical release in the United States, and even after its selection for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1990, the film remained unavailable, tied up with music rights were never cleared.
Burnett encountered immense difficulty getting a subsequent project off the ground, and his next feature, My Brother’s Wedding (1983), never received a theatrical release, nor even a cut with which Burnett was happy. Burnett also struggled to stake his claim during the independent cinema boom of the early 90s, and considers the carefully paced dark comedy of manners To Sleep with Anger (1990) and the dissection of institutionalised racism in LA’s police force The Glass Shield (his first studio film, for Miramax) victims of mismarketing.
Burnett refused to easily assimilate into the model of Black cinema being pushed by the major studios, one of “sex scenes from one end to the other – nonstop…five hundred murders and… [a] guy rapping over this guy’s dead body”…