Notes From The Program Director | Week of November 17th, 2023
Notes From The Program Director
Week of November 17th, 2023
It’s Thanksgiving week at the Pickford, and perfectly aligned with the holiday season, we’ve got Alexander Payne’sThe Holdoverscontinuing its run. Having seen it a second time now myself, I’m appreciating its humor and wit and its aching poignance even more. A beautiful and rare combination.
And new to our screens this week, opening for a limited engagement in just a few theaters around the country, including the Pickford, is Todd Haynes’sMay December.
Whether it’s a lush and devastating romance as withCarol, or an exploration of private and public identity inI’m Not There, or a piercing examination of the malaise of the American soul inSafe, Todd Haynes’s films never fail to offer enthralling complexities in their every layer. He can evoke heightened emotion along with the best melodramas of Douglas Sirk or Pedro Almodovar -- the films that leave me in a marvelous tangle of feelings -- while also offering the kind of thematic richness one might expect from an Ingmar Bergman or Andrei Tarkovsky film -- the films that leave me thinking about them for days on end. May December promises to be just such a film in its emotional and intellectual delights but also not quite anything Haynes has done before, offering perhaps more humor than any of his other films, even leading some critics to call it a “dramedy.” Charles Bramesco forThe Playlistnotes Haynes has “expertly pitched [the film] between irony and sincerity . . . at once arch about his humor . . . and earnest in his emotional inventories.”
Likewise,Bilge Ebiri forVultureagrees that the film is “very funny and light on its feet” but goes on to say that “it’s also a deeply uncomfortable movie.” And “Watching it at Cannes,” Ebiri says, “I found myself cackling with delight along with an audience of 2,000 other people. Stepping out into the rainy night, however, I felt like I needed to take a shower. I think that was the intention. This is the kind of subject that’s been fodder for broad comedies in the past . . . but Haynes uses humor for different ends here, embracing the tonal disjointedness to make us feel the unease.” Haynes has always been exactly that kind of filmmaker, inviting us so deeply into an emotion, or a situation, that the only way out is through, and that can be either exciting or scary, depending perhaps, on who we are as film viewers and how much we trust the filmmaker.
If there’s anyone I trust myself to as a film lover though, it’s Haynes. I know whatever he puts me through won’t be a game, but rather, something close to what it means to experience the very pinnacle of art, when it’s difficult to tell when life ends and the art begins. Haynes, here, seems to be exploring something right along with his viewers, inviting us into what he himself sees and feels, rather than doing something to us. As Ebiri muses as he closes his review, “It feels at times like the director himself is looking for the right tone with which to tell this story. He doesn’t know exactly how to feel about all this. So he feels all the things, and makes sure we do, too.” Not being sure how to feel about something and so feeling many things all at once is, surely, a regular experience of life, but much rarer is the film that is able to accomplish that reality on screen. But that is the kind of filmmaker Haynes is, and it is partly what makes his art so exhilarating to experience, especially on the big screen.
Finally, we have just one special event this week, the next entry in our monthly Third Eye series featuring “staff-curated cult classics.” This month’s pick,Brick, is from our wonderful Box Office and Membership Manager, Abby Caram. Written and directed by Rian Johnson,Brickwas Johnson’s brilliant feature film debut, and it has all the creative inventiveness in story, character, genre, and dialogue that has gone on to characterize Johnson’s career. InBrick, a noir film that is perfect for this month of Noir-vember, Johnson wears his influences on his sleeve -- the Dashiell Hammett-style speech, the classic noir tropes of a Humphrey Bogart film, the mix of the surreal and the earnest ofTwin Peaks-- but what he offers is so refreshingly and fully unique, too, that it’s a new classic of its own kind. An absolute delight from start to finish, with a phenomenal Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing the world-weary teenage detective to a tee. Brickplays on Saturday, Nov. 18, 10 pm.