In the first book devoted to Charles Burnett, a crucial figure in the history of American cinema often regarded as the most influential member of the L.A. Rebellion group of African American filmmakers, James Naremore provides a close critical study of all Burnett’s major pictures for movies and television, including Killer of Sheep, To Sleep with Anger, The Glass Shield, Nightjohn, The Wedding, Nat Turner: A Troublesome Property, and Warming by the Devil’s Fire. Having accessed new information and rarely seen material, Naremore shows that Burnett’s career has developed against the odds and that his artistry, social criticism, humor, and commitment to what he calls “symbolic knowledge” have given his work enduring value for American culture.
James Naremore is Chancellor's Professor Emeritus at Indiana University and author of The Magic World of Orson Welles, Acting in the Cinema, More than Night: Film Noir in Its Contexts, On Kubrick, and An Invention without a Future: Essays on Cinema.
"Charles Burnett’s (undeservedly) subterranean career as writer-director has long been an unexplored continent, and with insight, information, discernment, and grace, Naremore offers all the contexts we need to discover and appreciate this national treasure."—Jonathan Rosenbaum, author of Movies as Politics
"Charles Burnett is one of the most significant postwar American directors and with this book James Naremore gives him the sustained treatment he deserves. With masterful attention to his formal style, his use of folkloric traditions, and his engagement with the social and political world around him, Naremore provides an important and insightful account of Burnett’s extensive career."—Allyson Nadia Field, University of Chicago, coeditor of L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema
"James Naremore brilliantly delivers in this long overdue extended critical discussion of Charles Burnett's profound body of work. Charles Burnett: A Cinema of Symbolic Knowledge offers deeply rewarding close readings of Burnett's films, unfolding their layered social, historical and ethical meanings while never losing sight of their achievements as works of art. Naremore's signature patient analyses go far beyond ensconcing Burnett within the pantheon of world-cinema auteurs—where he rightfully belongs. In addition, this book demonstrates the urgent need for Burnett's nuanced cinematic humanism today."—Jacqueline Stewart, coeditor of L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black Cinema and author of Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity
"Naremore has had a distinguished career as a film scholar and academic film critic. I was not at all surprised that with his Burnett study he has produced another major achievement."—Robert E. Kapsis, Professor of Sociology and Film Studies, Queens College, CUNY, author of Hitchcock: The Making of a Reputation, and editor of Charles Burnett: Interviews
"A revelatory and welcome book."—Edward Dimendberg, Professor, School of Humanities, University of California, Irvine