The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, May 17-23

Bless their Little Hearts is a 1984 classic film directed by Billy Woodberry. It was honored by being selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. The restoration was carried out by Ross Lipman for the UCLA Film and Television Archive with funding by The National Film Preservation Foundation and The Packard Humanities Institute. Digital restoration by Milestone Film & Video with Re-Kino in Warsaw, Poland. In this scene actress Kaycee Moore playing the part of Andais Banks with Nate Hardman as Charlie Banks. Kaycee Moore also starred in Killer of Sheep and Daughters of the Dust.

Bless Their Little Hearts (1983)
Directed by Billy Woodberry
While at lunch with Orson Welles, Peter Bogdanovich got to talking about Greta Garbo and happened to say, “Wasn’t it too bad she had only been in two really good pictures?” Welles apparently narrowed his eyes and said, in a way that must have sent shivers down the young upstart’s spine, “You only need one.” Charles Burnett had one, but that’s not the whole story. Yeah, he brought Ozu-esque post-war impressionism to America in the 70s with his uncompromising Killer of Sheep (also newly revived this week), a bleak-yet-soft look at black malaise. If he’d only made that, he’d still be in the history books forever. But he directed more and he wrote and produced other films, including Billy Woodberry’s tragic Bless Their Little Hearts. A grainy black and white chamber piece, it tells the story of a man (Nate Hardman) busily failing his wife (Kaycee Moore) and three children (all Burnett’s). He drinks and steps out on his hearth to imagine a fork in the path to oblivion, like the West Coast cousin to August Wilson’s Pittsburgh strivers. The man’s humanity comes to him in quiet: when he’s setting lures, when he’s crying at the end of a long day, when he remembers the child he was, now reflected in the all-seeing eyes of his children. He seems to barely know them, but they know his every gesture, and Burnett and Woodberry make sure we feel the sting of his every regret and mistake. The camera and the eyes of children never forget. Scout Tafoya (New digital restoration opens May 17 at IFC Center)


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