The worst thing that can happen to a great movie is, in hindsight, for its release to have been in 1939, 1943, 1961, 1962, 1972, 1974, 1975, 1991 or 1997.
Let’s talk about The Godfather, widely acclaimed as a top film of all time. The casting – almost perfect; the writing – too accurate; the adaptation – who remembers the book? The Godfather, the movie, benefits from almost every detail: the early 1970s determined the rise of the mafia movie and The Godfather was (is) the strongest, all(!) the actors had already developed impressive résumés (no need to develop unknowns), the important scenes resonate with us (still) and we can never look at equus the same way. The parts all add to an absurd sum. The Godfather transcends genre, convention and, really the plasticity of awards shows. Of course, in infinite, alternate universes other movies could have won Best Picture. In those same universes, though, no one would have thought to have made any movies ever. That being said, it’s a damn shame that Sounder was released in 1972.
Released during the Second Golden Age of Filmmaking, Sounder tells the story of a poor, black family growing up and together in the poorest of times to be a poor, black family – 30s Depression. Its brilliance, and what allows us to examine Sounder from a different angle is that Sounder is not exploitative. It doesn’t aim to make an example of blackness or poverty, save to tell the story. And the story itself is largely inconsequential – the details matter inasmuch as to develop the theme. Sounder, it turns out, is not an obfuscated Faulkner reference, but a pup, and one who provides much-needed comfort and support to the family. He is the only constant in a world of changing variables: sometimes there’s no food, sometimes there’s no family, sometimes there’s unthinkable cruelty (as was the case in 1930s Louisiana); but there’s always Sounder. When Sounder is feared lost or dead, the family knows that he’s not. Sounder is faith and spirituality embodied and emboldened. It’s inspiring work. Continue reading