Notes From The Program Director | Week of November 3rd, 2023
Notes From The Program Director
Week of November 3rd, 2023
This week, the Doctober festival behind us -- and what a joyous festival it was! -- the Pickford returns to our standard programming with new-release theatrical runs, peppered with special events. We’re coming up on an exciting time of year, too, when all of the distributors generally plan to release their big fall movies, the films that often end up with the biggest awards of the year at the Oscars. We could perhaps say that Martin Scorsese’s long-aitedKillers of a Flower Moonkicked off the season, and while we had to miss its opening weeks due to Doctober and distributor restrictions, I’m still hoping to getFlower Moonon screen (it’s worth every minute of its 3.5 hours!), so stay tuned for any announcements about that.
But one of our new films opening this Friday also represents one of the biggest, most essential films of the year, and certainly a rival for the best-of-the-year spot: the Palme d’Or winner,Anatomy of a Fall.
Anatomy of a Fallis directed by Justine Triet and stars Sandra Hüller (Toni Erdmann), who just may be the actress of the year this year and who is also quickly becoming one of the very best actors working today, period. Hüller turns in a stunningly nuanced and mesmerizing performance here, a performance that is completely, wonderfully different from that inZone of Interest(one of the other most-talked-about films of the year and one I plan to get on screen this January).
Anatomy of a Fallitself is brilliant, thorny -- and it very well may leave audiences in vibrant discussions about it afterwards. The programmers for the wonderful Barnyard Cinema, over the mountains in Winthrop, WA, texted me right after they sawAnatomyat the Orcas Island Film Fest, which we all attended: "Did she do it??" Did she, indeed. Part of the joy ofAnatomy of a Fallis that it is, in fact, a whodunit, a courtroom drama, but it's also so much more than that, and the question, "did she do it?" while pressing and inevitable (and, I think, answerable), is ultimately less lingering than what the film is examining thematically: the nature of truth itself and how it can be discovered in an imperfect world, full of imperfect people, who do not have access to all the evidence. It isn’t a hopeless film, however, insisting there is no truth; it does indicate we can discover answers and that there are systems in place in the courts to get at some of those answers, but whether those systems can, say, fully answer the larger question of what went on in a marriage, a private relationship between two people? That, is another question.
The film is about a literal fall -- whether a man fell accidentally or was pushed -- and that inquiry is what will rivet a viewer on the first viewing -- I certainly couldn't look away. But in the aftermath of the film, when all the story has been told and the answer given, the "fall" will mean a great many more things than just a body plummeting through space. And that makes the film something that will stick with me for a very long while. Come see it on the big screen -- and plan on time for a conversation afterwards!
In addition toAnatomy of a Fall, we also have two brand new documentaries, here for their theatrical releases:Full CircleandDeep Rising.
Full Circleis a documentary that will appeal to any among the outdoorsy, skiing crowd -- and any of us merely riveted by, but not participants in, such sports! -- but also to those interested in disability rights and advocacy. The film follows the compelling story of Trevor Kennison, who suffered a spinal cord injury while skiing but went on to become a record-breaking sit skier as a paraplegic. The opening scene alone, where Trevor actually skis off a cliff while other skiers watch in awe, left me with my heart in my mouth. It is an irresistible hook of a beginning that made me eager to find out more about the life of this extraordinary person. The film also follows the parallel story of an earlier skier/adventurer whose name may be familiar to many, Barry Corbet: a man who also broke his back while following his outdoor passions, but did so in the pre-ADA era, and he went on to become a leader in the disability community, shining a light on what it means to live with life-altering injuries.Full Circleis a moving, life-affirming story, deeply humane at its heart, while also offering some of the most stunning cinematography and intense scenes of an extraordinary athlete doing extraordinary things.
Deep Risingis an acclaimed documentary coming out of the Sundance Film Festival this year and one that justifiably nabbed theNew York TimesCritic's Pick honor last week. It's a film with simply gorgeous under-the-sea cinematography -- a parallel to the glorious imagery many of you saw and loved in last year’sRiver-- but it focuses on the topic of under the ocean mining as certain industries look to the ocean for the extraction of metals to help in the production of batteries (e.g. for electric cars). This is a film for enthusiasts of gorgeous nature cinematography as well as for those who care deeply about sustainability and what it means to protect the planet we live on, particularly the ocean itself as a life-giving force and a space that is also increasingly under threat.
We also have four very special film events this week:
First, I am utterly delighted to say we have an encore performance of this year’sDoctober Audience Award winner:Let the Canary Singon Saturday, Nov. 4, 6 pm. I cannot express to you how truly joyous this film is and what an utter delight it is to watch with an audience. The film tells the story of pop star Cyndi Lauper, someone who grew up under the shadow of poverty and violence but never strayed from her determination to be exactly who she was, in all of her irrepressible, vibrant uniqueness and artistry, and who went on to be a champion of others, particularly those who were most vulnerable and most needed an advocate before anyone else was speaking out for them. Her slow rise to musical fame, which did not hit until she was in her 30’s, is a riveting tale, and the story of the creation of her songs “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “Time After Time,” and “True Colors” is worth the price of admission alone. But it’s a rare documentary where you can go into it already appreciating the artist’s work and then finding yourself completely falling in love with the artist themselves by the end of it. This is one of those rare docs. If you’ve not seen it yet, be prepared to laugh, clap, and almost certainly cry. It’s one of the very best docs of the year and an absolute pleasure to hand it the Audience Award.
Second,Rocket Sci Fiis back this month withThe Giant Claw(1957), another wonderfully deranged film expressing angst in the post-war era! An extra-terrestrial bird--as big as a battleship and protected by an invisible barrier of anti-matter--attacking the earth and igniting a world-wide panic? Yes, please! Rocket Sci Fi curator, Steve Meyers, will be on hand to introduce the film and tickets, as always, are just $6. Sunday, Nov. 5, 1:45 pm.
Third, King Crimson fans - you know who you are - we have the documentary for you:In the Court of the Crimson King, playing on Wed., Nov. 8, 7:45 pm. It’s a remarkable film that doesn’t pull any punches, andGuardiancritic Leslie Felperin appropriately quipped, giving the film arave review: “This unflinching portrait of the prog rock band is like an episode of The Office but with huge drum kits, grizzled roadies and rapturous fans.” But it’s not just a film for King Crimson fans either, as Felperin goes on to explain; it is for them -- and for others as well: “King Crimson are a band usually described as prog rock, although metal, industrial, jazz, experimental and, my favourite, math rock have all been accurate-enough labels over their 50-plus-year career. They are also a bit of an acquired taste, and many of those who’ve acquired it are incredibly, zealously, maybe sometimes even a little dysfunctionally passionate, to the point where, say, Grateful Dead fans might counsel them to chill out. But the great thing about this thoughtful, intimate portrait of them is that one doesn’t even need to like their music all that much to find this film by director Toby Amies utterly enthralling. Somehow it ends up being about a lot more than just King Crimson.” So come for the band, or come for an extraordinary film -- I think few will be disappointed.
Finally, I’ll have more to say about this film next week, when it opens for its full run, but I could not be more excited that we’ll have Alexander Payne’s new film,The Holdovers, this fall season, and while many of you were lucky enough to catch the Early Access screening last week, we’ve also got a preview this week for those who want to be among the first to see it: Thursday, Nov. 9, 8:30 pm. I knew, immediately, when I sawThe Holdoversat the Toronto Film Fest that it would be a “Pickford film”: it’s sparkling and hilarious; it’s wry but warm-hearted; it’s sharp without being mean-spirited; its characters are rich and lovable but never saccharine; and there’s nobody like Paul Giamatti for delivering the most beautifully witty bits of dialogue in the most natural way possible. An instant holiday classic.