Notes From The Program Director | Week of June 23rd, 2023

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Notes From The Program Director

Week of June 23rd, 2023

Melissa Tamminga

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Hello, friends!

We’ve had to say our sad goodbyes to Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Eight Mountains, and You Hurt My Feelings, but along with several special stand-alone events, we’re delighted to bring you two new brilliant films this week: Asteroid Cityand The Last Rider.  

Asteroid City, like all Wes Anderson films, is pure pleasure to gaze at -- the colors, the compositions, the careful symmetry -- it’s an aesthetic delight. But while aesthetics alone offer pleasure, Anderson’s meticulous visual landscapes are never without their thematic resonances. There’s been a recent trend on TikTok, humorously rendering a moment in someone’s life in the style of Wes Anderson: symmetrical compositions, blank expressions on faces, whimsical music to accompany daily tasks. The implication is that anyone can make a “Wes Anderson film.” Some have even claimed that soulless AI could as easily make a Wes Anderson film as Wes Anderson himself. And true, his style is one that seems ripe for imitation, or, for the more cynical, for parody. But Wes Anderson films, for all their seeming-fussy exteriors, are always more complicated, more dense, and more soulful than they first appear. That slowly revealed complexity in his films is partly why I never watch an Anderson film just once -- it’s often only on the second, third, or even fourth time, where all the layers finally come into focus. A first viewing is pure pleasure, but it’s the subsequent viewings that explode my heart and soul.  

Asteroid City also operates at this multi-layered level, and in an especially brilliant analysis of the film, Sam Adams, writing for Slate in “Wes Anderon’s New Movie Explains Wes Anderson” lays out the complex themes the film is tackling, themes that no casual TikTok creator or AI machine could simply churn out. Asteroid Citymight be the most “meta” of any of Anderson’s films, circling around the nature of filmmaking itself and deepening the complexity of his other existential themes. While all of his films deal with the universe’s Big Questions -- questions of identity, family, belonging, death, loss -- they also often deal with the meaning and value of art itself.  In his earlier film, Moonrise Kingdom, for example, we see these ruminations: one of our main characters, Susie, constantly gazes at the world through binoculars, and as viewers, we gaze at the world with her through her round-lensed framings. She says of her binoculars, “It helps me see things closer. Even if they're not very far away. I pretend it's my magic power.” Susie, as a metaphor for Wes Anderson, the filmmaker himself, invites us in that film to ask if looking at the world through a lens is, indeed, a magic power, helping us to “see things closer.”

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Pickford Film Center

1318 Bay St
Bellingham, WA 98225

Office | 360.647.1300
Movie line | 360.738.0735

Mailing Address
PO Box 2521
Bellingham, WA 98227