This is only Charles Burnett’s third feature. His debut was 1978’s Killer of Sheep.
Though it starts out grounded in realism (certainly Killer of Sheep is an important film in the independent and realism movements), Burnett’s To Sleep with Anger (also written by Burnett)’s premise is a descendant of Jean Renoir’s Boudu Saved from Drowning (1932) with Danny Glover as the Michel Simon character. “He is a master of wearing out his welcome” is from the text.
Glover’s Harry disrupts Gideon and Suzie- a normal couple with their Cain and Abel (one good, one bad) sons. Harry is superstitious, the film has a fascinating connection to folklore: the broom, the rabbit’s food, card playing, natural remedies. Harry is afraid of the Toby charm.
Burnett is a far better writer than director. He employs not only the Bible (a massive storm and a full moon when the brother’s fight) for his fable, but Aesop’s “The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse” as well.
Danny Glover apparently helped get the movie made utilizing some of the cache and star power he built up from 1987’s Lethal Weapon.
Recommend but ultimately not terribly close to the top 10 of 1990
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