Monday, 18 March 2013

Films That I Like: The Brother From Another Planet

The Brother From Another Planet (1984)
Written and Directed by John Sayles.

I remember going to see this several times when it was first released. Made for $350,000 and filmed on location in New York. It's a rambling structureless film that loses it's way in the third act by, ironically, trying to impose a conventional story on itself.

What drives the film is the device of making the Alien, played by Joe Morton, unable to speak so that he spends the film listening to the stories of the characters around him. Thus the film becomes a series of vignettes as the inhabitants of Harlem tell him their life stories, their hopes and dreams. His willingness to listen allows him to assimilate into his environment much more effectively than if he was constantly trying to impose his own viewpoint. This is contrasted with the two white businessmen who wander into a Harlem Bar by accident and never shut up long enough to learn anything at all.

Other highpoints are the alien bounty hunters, and their ultimate fate, the sequence on Ellis Island and what the Alien does with the record sleeve.

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