Brother From Another Planet (the)
The Brother From Another Planet tells of a dark-skinned visitor from outer space (Morton), who looks like a black human being, until you see his three funny toes. He can't talk, but reads minds, listens carefully, looks deeply into others' eyes, and thus provides a reflection of society. It sounds serious but is top-notch comedy. The man arrives in a ship from the cheapest 1950 movies, swims ashore, and finds himself in Manhattan, completely baffled. Before long, everyone he meets is equally baffled. People who confound all expectations force us to re-evaluate those, and ourselves.
The spaceman isn't looking for trouble, nor is he controversial, but wants only to make sense of this weird new world. His response to most situations is quiet reserve, so people project onto him their own feelings and expectations, telling him what he must be thinking, then behaving as if that were so. He goes along. Each funny scene has a quiet "bite," a way of making us re-think social constructs. The "brother" meets hookers and con artists, tourists from Indiana, immigrant shopkeepers, and a New Yorker who shows him a puzzling card trick, then demonstrates another with a cynical grain of big-city truth. The brother walks through this menagerie bemused: People seem to have a lot of problems on this planet. He gladly helps; his right hand has power to repair video games, as people quickly accept, if it helps them.
The Brother From Another Planet explores the kinds of scenes not possible since silent film, with individual moments worthy of Buster Keaton, such as Morton's unblinking passivity in the midst of chaos. Curiously, the film functions as subtle social satire, unusual in a low-budget, good-natured comedy. Having literally dropped out of the skies, "the brother" doesn't have any opinions on anything, but only gradually realizes that, on this world he's "black," and that his color makes a difference in some situations. He tries to accept that. When he's hurt or wronged, his reaction is not so much anger as surprise: It seems unnecessary to him that people behave unkindly toward one another, and he's a little surprised by their going to such effort to be unkind. His surprise, in its own sweet and uncomplicated way, is one of the most effective elements in the whole movie.
Sayles, slavery, spaceman
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