Over the past few years, the Venice Film Festival, which celebrates its 72nd anniversary in September, has presented newly restored versions of classic films in the Classics section at the festival.
Yesterday their list of restored films to be shown was released, and among the 21 classic films selected are Akira Kurosawa’s 1965 “Red Beard,” Sergej Ėisenstein’s 1938 epic “Alexander Nevsky,” 1946 fantasy “A Matter of Life and Death” co-directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s highly controversial and graphic 1975 film “Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom.”
But a very welcome surprise was the inclusion, on this year’s list, of Charles Burnett’s wonderful 1990 drama “To Sleep with Anger,” starring Danny Glover, Paul Butler, Mary Alice, Richard Brooks Carl Lumbly, Vonetta McGee and Sheryl Lee Ralph.
The thing about “Anger” is that it’s hard to really categorize what it is exactly about. On the surface it looks like a simple family drama, but actually it’s a sardonic domestic drama, with elements of suspense and a touch of the supernatural. It’s really like nothing else you have ever seen.
The premise of the film is simply about a loving older couple (Butler and Alice) with two grown sons and daughters-in-law, who get an unexpected visit from the mysterious Harry (Glover) – a sort of drifter and old friend from down South who they haven’t seen in years, and who intends to stay with them for a few days.
However, it’s slowly revealed that Harry is not the friendly, likable guy that he is at first. It turns out that he’s a sort evil, malicious spirit whose very presence begins to negatively effect, not only the family, but everyone else who comes into contact with him.
Before long, strange unexplained illnesses, greed, hatred and long simmering jealousies, leading to potential violence, begin to take root, and it might take an act of God to stop things before they get worse.
The film may have Danny Glover’s greatest performance on film and, as with all of Burnett’s best work, what may at first seem simple on the screen is actually rich with meaning and metaphors. It’s a film that you need to see more than once just to understand and appreciate all the nuances and subtext.
And did I forget mention that it’s also just plain funny? There are some genuine, flat-out big laughs in the film – especially near the end – showing how the family and their friends react to a certain major event that takes place; but for those who haven’t seen the film, I’m definitely not going to spoil it for you.
It is great news that the film has been restored by Sony Pictures and will be screened at the Venice Film Fest. Hopefully this means that the much needed blu-ray release of the film, perhaps following an limited theatrical run, is soon to be for a new audience to discover it.