Week of March 10th, 2023
The Oscars are nearly upon us, and we’ve said goodbye to our Oscar-nominated Animated shorts, but there’s one more week’s chance to see the Oscar-nominated films Women Talking and EO before they leave our screens. It was a particular delight to see the love for both films when they opened with us last weekend; we even had a couple of nearly sold out shows. Neither film, each so deeply powerful in its own unique way, has done as well as it deserves to at the national box office, but as ever-discerning film lovers, Pickford patrons are showing the rest of the country how it’s done!
New to our cinema this week is an Oscar competitor for EO in Best International Feature Film category: Close.
Close, directed by Belgian filmmaker Lukas Dhont, is a tender, beautiful film, a delicately drawn depiction of childhood and childhood friendship, focusing, in this case, on Leo and Remi, two 13-year old boys who are teetering on that edge between being children and teens. The boys, played by two stunningly good new child actors, spend every waking, and often sleeping, moment with each other--running in fields, racing along on their bikes, tumbling in and out of each other's homes as if they belonged to one family. Their joyous, wholly unselfconscious emotional and physical intimacy, the kind you often see in very young children, is so specific in its immersive detail that it's impossible not to be drawn into such a loving circle of two, and, thus, the break, when it's instigated by casually cruel questions from schoolmates about their relationship, is brutal. But Dhont keeps the camera and the story so tightly tied to the boys themselves--their emotional reactions and inner turmoil known only to us as viewers and invisible to the adults and other children around them--that the heartbreak never tilts into melodrama.
It's a film that's reminiscent of the masterworks of Iranian filmmakers Abbas Kiariostami in Where Is the Friend's Home or Majid Majidi's Children of Heaven, two superbly drawn films that follow the desperate, unseen needs and complicated thoughts that children have and that the children cannot share with the uncomprehending adults in their lives. What they feel, what they think simply cannot be expressed in words to the adults, and it's the camera's potent gaze, instead, that helps us feel every step of their journey. Here, too, in Close, the boys process silently, Leo particularly, and yet the film’s power is that we know how he feels, even if no one else does.
The major narrative beat of the film -- a specific tragic incident that happens about 1/3 of the way in and that I won't give away -- all falls within the context of a character who internalizes. Thus, the catharsis, when it comes, is at the end of an increasingly emotionally taut journey, and I think very few filmmakers could accomplish it as effectively as Dhont does. It's masterfully done. Only The Quiet Girl--a film coming to our screens next week and also an Oscar-nominated International feature this year--rivals Close in its quiet and devastating power to evoke and portray the complex emotional world of children.
And back, for just three days, as a part of our celebration of Oscar-nominated films is the family-friendly, irresistibly winsome Marcel the Shell with Shoes On. Marcel and his shoes will be with us on Saturday, 12:05 pm, Sunday, 1:20 pm, and Wednesday, 3:40 pm. And don’t forget, Wednesdays are always free popcorn days at the Pickford for all students in Whatcom county, K-12 and college!
Also, this week, for our continuing Tanaka Kinuyo series, we have two more films: Love Under a Crucifix, introduced by special guest Colleen Laird, on Saturday, March 11, and Girls of the Night, introduced by special guest Julia Sapin, on Wednesday, March 15. We are so delighted to have both films and guests with us!
Dr. Laird, who has also written an introduction to our series, which you can find on our website, is an Assistant Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of British Columbia. Her primary focus is on Japanese women directors, and she has published on the industry relationships between women directors, female identifying spectators, and the contemporary Japanese film market.
Dr. Sapin is a professor of Art History in the Department of Art and Art History at Western. Her research focuses on the visual culture of the Meiji period (1868-1912) in Japan with a special emphasis on representation of national, regional, and gender identities in textiles, painting, and department-store advertising. Her current research focuses on the export of kimono and kimono-like garments to Europe and the United States in the early twentieth century and the sartorial and social implications of those exports.
And finally, last but not least, and at long last, is the movie event of the year: the 95th Academy Awards. And perhaps it’s just me, but it seems that this year, there’s a special energy and excitement around the Oscars, with lots of love for the nominated films and a particular affection for the Pickford’s biggest film of the year, Everything Everywhere All at Once. Nothing is certain with the Oscars, of course, but there is distinct pleasure in knowing we’ve shared our screen with no less than 30 of the nominated films, including all 5 of the Best Director nominees and 8 of the 10 Best Picture nominees. It feels a bit like the Oscars belong to us this year!
So we’re especially delighted to again be holding an Oscar-viewing party for the live broadcast of the show, where we can all root for our favorites together. The event will be hosted by the Bellingham Queer Collective, with pre-show red carpet fun in the lobby from 4:00-5:00 and special giveaways during the show. Admission is free, fancy dress welcomed, and donations encouraged. Tickets are going fast, and it promises to be a wonderful night.
See you at the movies, friends!