Notes From The Program Director | Week of March 31st, 2023
Notes From The Program Director
Week of March 31st, 2023
This week, we’re happily hanging on to the sublime tear-jerkerThe Quiet Girlfor a few more days and the superbTurn Every Pagefor two final weekend shows, but we also have a veritable smorgasbord of other films on the menu! Women Talkingreturns -- previously, we had to let it go too soon and it’s a joy to have the Oscar-winning film back for one last well-deserved victory lap;The Whale, too, with Brendan Fraser’s heartfelt and Oscar-winning performance, has finally made it to our screens; Guillermo del Toro’s gloriously inventive and beautifully rendered Oscar-winning animated filmPinocchiois where it belongs on the big screen and promises to delight kids of all ages over Whatcom County’s public school spring break; and we have two newly released films beginning their theatrical runs with us:One Fine MorningandSmoking Causes Coughing.
One Fine Morning, directed by one of the best and maybe most underrated filmmakers working today, Mia Hansen-Løve, was one of my favorite films coming out of the Toronto International Film Festival last year, and it ultimately easily made my Top 15 Films of 2022. Hansen-Løve, as she has so often done so beautifully in all her films, masterfully and delicately explores relationships, familial and romantic, and the intersections and complications therein. InOne Fine Morning, she focuses on two specific kinds of relationships: a father and a daughter, and that daughter and her lover. The daughter, played by the divine Lea Seydoux, is widowed with her own young daughter, and in one part of her life, she is figuring out how to be a caretaker for her brilliant father, a scholar and an intellect, who is nonetheless falling prey to dementia, and in another part of her life, she reconnects with an old friend and falls joyously and passionately in love. Each aspect of her life is told with such nuance and richness that each could be a film on its own, but Hansen-Løve instead chooses to weave them together and ultimately does so in such a way that she offers us something much closer to what the complexities of real adult life is like -- being a daughter, being a lover, being a parent -- and the portrait that emerges is layered and satisfying. Hansen-Løve never offers easy answers or lessons for her characters, but I always emerge from her story-worlds feeling as if a vital nerve-center of our humanity has been gently but relentlessly exposed, and it’s a truly glorious kind of shock.
Smoking Causes Coughingmight just be the polar opposite ofOne Fine Morning, a reminder that the various kinds of cinema that delight us are often wildly different from one another, and where Hansen-Løve revels in the nuances of a more realistic cinematic world, Quentin Dupieux romps around in all that is delightfully absurd, marvelously surreal, and magnificently ridiculous. Those of you who have enjoyed Dupieux’s earlier films, perhaps those likeRubber--which featured a sentient, homicidal car tire named Robert--will certainly enjoy Dupieux’s latest entry, but I would venture to say it’s perhaps his most accessible and his funniest. It features five very silly-looking superheroes called the Tobacco Force, who fight their enemies with the toxic ingredients of cigarettes, ingredients that shoot out of their fists when the team works together against such enemies as evil giant-sized tortoises. The fun really starts though when the team is sent off to a team-building retreat by their boss (who happens to be an oversized, talking puppet-rat), and the team challenges each other to tell the “scariest story.” The film then splits into several different stories, each more ridiculous than the next and hilariously portrayed in a deadpan manner. It’s a film for those who love a bit of silly and lightly cynical humor, reminiscent perhaps of Douglas Adams and hisHitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and it is no surprise to me at all that the supremely entertaining king of “bad taste” John Waters called this “A superhero movie for idiots!” and “one of the best films of the year.”
But I must end this discussion ofSmoking Causes Coughingwith Quetin Dupieux’s own wonderfully wry note, which perfectly captures the tone of the film itself:
“When I began writing a comedy with such rich references to the past (POWER RANGERS, CREEPSHOW, SAN KU KAI, HALLOWEEN...) with the simple but noble intent of entertaining audiences depressed by current events, I never suspected that I would find so much substance and truth along the way... Disguised as a farcical parody, SMOKING CAUSES COUGHING is in fact my film that is most seriously connected with the real world. And I was the first to be surprised. Without any conscious desire on my part, our own times and its dramatic issues infiltrated my dialogues. As though it is no longer possible to ignore the crisis our planet is going through. As though it is now inconceivable that a film, no matter how funny, can avoid reflecting what all of humanity is going through.
“Luckily for our audiences’ morale, SMOKING CAUSES COUGHING is an unabashed source of inconsequential entertainment. It never imposes any big speeches, and there is no moral of the story. Those who want to forget their troubles with a good laugh at the movies will probably see nothing but smoke. The cigarette smoke that we are talking about.”
Finally, while I am sad to see our Tanaka series go, I am delighted to say that the next entry in ourCinema Eastseries is none other than a double feature from master filmmaker Johnnie To: the Hong Kong blockbusterHeroic Trioand its sequel,Executioners. Janus, our distributor for the films, describesHeroic Trioappropriately irresistibly:
“The supernova star power of Hong Kong cinema icons Maggie Cheung, Michelle Yeoh, and Anita Mui propels this gloriously unrestrained action extravaganza from genre maestro Johnnie To, which injects its martial-arts mayhem with a blast of comic-book lunacy. They are the knife-throwing, shotgun-toting, kung-fu-fighting super-heroines who must overcome their dark pasts in order to defeat an evil, baby-snatching eunuch who is terrorizing Hong Kong. Eye-popping motorcycle stunts, brain-exploding skeletons, infant cannibals, and kinetically choreographed wire work are all part of the delirium in this unstoppably entertaining cult favorite, a kick-butt showcase for three of the coolest women warriors to ever hit the screen.”
We’ve left Women’s History Month behind, but who says we can’t go on to celebrate “three of the coolest women warriors ever to hit the screen”? Join us on Tuesday evening, April 4, 6:00 and 8:10 for a double-punch of a film program you won’t want to miss!