blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

The Horse (1973, Charles Burnett)

A scene from THE HORSE, directed by Charles Burnett.

The Horse plays a little like the end of another movie, like Burnett cut off the first hour and a half and just left the finale. He forces the viewer to distance him or herself from the film’s narrative as much as possible–the characters all know one another, the viewer never gets an introduction.

Burnett opens the film on a very long shot of the California countryside. A car approaches. Until that car shows up, it looks like a painting. Besides the car, it’s impossibly motionless. But instead of the car arriving and bringing the viewer in, Burnett pushes them out again. One watches The Horse always listening closely, always wondering if some detail is too understated.

When the film comes to its conclusion, Burnett has just made the viewer wait twelve minutes and explained nothing. The end makes The Horse even more confounding.

It’s affecting more than successful.



Written, edited, produced and directed by Charles Burnett; director of photography, Ian Conner.

Starring Gordon Houston (William), Maury Wright (Ray’s boy), Gary Morrin (Walter), Roger Collins (West), George Williams (Lee) and Larry Clark (Ray).


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