Metal | Chicago Reader

Metal

Christopher E. Brown's 1999 portrait of a poor family in the San Francisco neighborhood of Hunter's Point avoids narrative contrivances, its understated performances and austere camera work capturing the look and feel of life as it's actually lived. Ray, an unemployed auto mechanic, spends his days laboring over an old truck in front of his house, his failure to repair it a metaphor for the near hopelessness of his situation. As he and his wife leave the dinner table to argue behind a closed door, the camera stays with their two kids, who hear the whole thing. The characters seem trapped in repetitive situations, which gives a good sense of the drabness of the family's struggle, and many scenes are only a single shot, separated by brief blackouts that not only intensify the images but remind us of filmmaking's inevitable elisions. Brown, an American raised in South Africa, pays homage to Charles Burnett and John Cassavetes in the credits. 88 min.

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