Cinema Lumiere - Sala Scorsese > 11:00


Charles Burnett
Introduced by

Jillian Borders and Dennis Doros (UCLA)


Tuesday 25/06/2024


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

In a quiet Los Angeles boarding house, an unlikely romance develops between eccentrics Obadiah “Fish” Johnson (James Earl Jones) and Flower “Poinsettia” Cummings (Lynn Redgrave). Fish is newly released from a mental institution despite his regular physical wrestling matches with his demon, Hank. Poinsettia, prone to belting out arias from Madame Butterfly, contends with her own invisible partner, the ghost of the composer Giacomo Puccini, to whom she is engaged to be married. All this unfolds under the loving eye of the matron of the house, Mrs Muldroone, played almost unrecognizably by Margot Kidder.
The seemingly outlandish setup by screenwriter/novelist Anthony C. Winkler may lead viewers to expect a slapstick comedy, but instead the film handles the issues of aging, mental illness and finding a life’s purpose with a gentle touch. The leads impress in the character-driven story, with an emotional and athletic performance from Jones as the widower Fish, and a bold but nuanced turn by Redgrave as the over-the-top Poinsettia.
Revered director Charles Burnett has had a prestigious career since his time in the Master of Fine Arts program at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. Two of his acclaimed films have been placed on the National Film Registry: the “LA Rebellion” masterpiece Killer of Sheep (1978) – which was just ranked the 43rd Greatest Film of All Time in “Sight and Sound” – and the devilish family drama To Sleep with Anger (1990). Previously unreleased and unavailable on any home video format, The Annihilation of Fish is ripe for discovery as a worthy volume in Burnett’s impressive oeuvre. It is due to the persistence of Dennis Doros of Milestone Films, who pursued the rights for 19 years, that audiences will finally be able to experience this charming and poignant film.

Jillian Borders


Cast and Credits

Scen.: Anthony C. Winkler F.: John L. Demps Jr., Rick Robinson. M.: Nancy Richardson. Scgf.: Nina Ruscio. Mus.: Laura Karpman. Int.: Lynn Redgrave (Flower ‘Poinsettia’ Cummings), James Earl Jones (Obadiah ‘Fish’ Johnson), Margot Kidder (signora Muldroone), David Kagen (assistente sociale). Prod.: Paul Heller, William Lawrence Fabrizio, John Remark, Eric Mitchell, Kris Dodge per Intrepid Productions, Inc. DCP. D.: 108’. Col.