PMA Films: Don Hertzfeldt's amazing new animated short, a document of contemporary Iran, and more "Talk of the Town" — Portland Museum of Art (2024)

Table of Contents
PMA Films Specialist Chris Gray dives into our upcoming screenings for June 7-16 Screening Times & Tickets: World of Tomorrow + ME Screening Times & Tickets: “The Talk of the Town”: Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962) Screening Times & Tickets: Terrestrial Verses Screening Times & Tickets: “The Talk of the Town”: News from Home (1977) PAST SCREENINGS “The Talk of the Town”: All About Eve (1950) Exhibition on Screen: John Singer Sargent: Fashion & Swagger Wildcat Bates Film Festival (May 17-19) The Old Oak Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World “Edward Yang’s City Symphonies”: Yi Yi (2000) The Arc of Oblivion (with filmmaker Ian Cheney 4/28) “Edward Yang’s City Symphonies”: Mahjong (1996) FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992) (Free Family Day Screening) Inundation District Nostalghia (1983) “Edward Yang’s City Symphonies”: A Confucian Confusion (1994) La Chimera Hundreds of Beavers Beauty and the Beast (1991) (Free Family Day screening) The Teachers’ Lounge Marguerite: From the Bauhaus to Pond Farm (Free screening with filmmaker David Washburn and panel discussion) “Edward Yang’s City Symphonies”: A Brighter Summer Day (1991) Midsommar Director’s Cut Here Anselm Jules au pays d’Asha/Adventures in the Land of Asha (Free screening presented by Alliance Française du Maine) Perfect Days 2024 Oscar Nominated Shorts - Live Action 2024 Oscar Nominated Shorts - Documentary 2024 Oscar Nominated Shorts - Live Action I Heard It Through the Grapevine (1982) NYICFF Kid Flicks: Celebrating Black Stories The Promised Land Occupied City (presented with Maine Jewish Film Festival) Origin Those Who Wait (with filmmakers Chani Bockwinkel and Ty Burdenski) Godard Cinema + Trailer of a Film That Will Never Exist: ‘Phony Wars’ All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt A Still Small Voice Fallen Leaves The Muppet Christmas Carol (free Third Thursday screening) Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros Nice People (with filmmakers Jeff Griecci and Ian Carlsen) Monster Strange Way of Life + The Human Voice We Are the Warriors (with filmmakers David Camlin and Megan Grumbling) Four Daughters The Delinquents Mary and Molly (Free screening and panel discussion with filmmaker Donna Loring) Maine Jewish Film Festival The Origin of Evil Remembering Every Night We Are the Warriors (with filmmakers David Camlin and Megan Grumbling) Remembering Every Night Champlain Film Festival Three Chaplains (Free screening with filmmakers David Washburn and Razi Jafri) Joan Baez I Am A Noise Reciprocity Project Season One (Free screening) The Eternal Memory The Red Turtle (Free Family Day screening) Scrapper Our Body Passages Kokomo City Exhibition on Screen: Tokyo Stories Anonymous Sister (Presented with Recovery in Maine and featuring filmmaker Jamie Boyle) Amanda John and Francis Ford Film Festival Behind the Strings Return to Oz (Free screening in Congress Square Park) CatVideoFest 2023 Earth Mama “Elizabeth Colomba Selects”: Gosford Park Afire “Elizabeth Colomba Selects”: The Wiz Umberto Eco: A Library of the World “System Reboot”: Super Mario Bros. (Free screening in Congress Square Park) “Elizabeth Colomba Selects”: Howard’s End The Mother and the whor* “Elizabeth Colomba Selects”: The Leopard The Night of the 12th “System Reboot”: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) (Free screening in Congress Square Park) Close to Vermeer End of the Century (Free screening) The Queen (Free screening) Light Attaching to a Girl (with filmmaker Laina Barakat) The Watermelon Woman (Free screening) Losing Ground (Free screening) Maine Mayhem Film Festival Chile ‘76 The Eight Mountains Honest Vision: A Portrait of Todd Webb (with Director Huey) Showing Up “Inside/Outside”: Short Films by Paulin Soumanou Vieyra Hilma “Inside/Outside”: Black Girl + Jojolo No One Told Me (with director Zulilah Merry) R.M.N. “Inside/Outside”: First World Festival of Negro Arts + African Rhythmus Return to Seoul Exhibition on Screen: Vermeer: The Greatest Exhibition Walk Up One Fine Morning Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb Guerilla Opera’s I Give You My Home My Name Is Andrea (with Maine Jewish Film Festival and Through These Doors) Full Time Close Dark Nights Golden Days (with Oshima Brothers) The Quiet Girl 2023 Oscar Nominated Shorts - Live Action NYICFF Kid Flicks: Celebrating Black Stories (Free Family Day screening) 2023 Oscar Nominated Shorts - Documentary 2023 Oscar Nominated Shorts - Animation The Rules of the Game Bad Axe Saint Omer EO & Au Hasard Balthazar Exhibition on Screen: Hopper: An American Love Story Let It Be Morning (with Maine Jewish Film Festival) Broker The Eternal Daughter All the Beauty and the Bloodshed The Inspection

PMA Films Specialist Chris Gray dives into our upcoming screenings for June 7-16

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World of Tomorrow + ME

One of the great, visionary living animators, Don Hertzfeldt’s work mostly revolves around stick figures enduring astonishingly specific and metaphysical trials. Since 2000’s Oscar-nominated Rejected, a series of vignettes that presaged a lot of early internet humor (you can watch it on YouTube), Hertzfeldt’s theatrically released work has been marked by a steady and revelatory uptick in ambition. It’s Such a Beautiful Day, a set of three shorts eventually distributed as a feature in 2012, enters the dream life of a mundane guy named Bill through the innovative use of split screens and carries a devastating cumulative weight. In 2014, Hertzfeldt created the longest and most surreal opening “couch gag” in the history of The Simpsons, and this short presaged his entry into the world of digital animation with the three-part shorts trilogy World of Tomorrow (2015-2020). A sci-fi parable about cloning, memory, and legacy, the World of Tomorrow films are grounded by the presence of Hertzfeldt’s niece, who portrays Emily Prime, and whose voice (recorded while she spent time drawing and being a kid) is beautifully integrated into a heady story. These are some of the great animated films of our time, and they are paired well with Hertzfeldt’s brand new short, ME, a galaxy-brained, essentially musical portrait of… generational trauma and societal collapse? Like all of Hertzfeldt’s work, it is dazzling, hilarious, and unexpectedly moving.

Screening Times & Tickets:

“The Talk of the Town”: Cléo from 5 to 7 (1962)

Our June film series, “The Talk of the Town” (full description here), continues with the second feature film by the singular Agnès Varda. A blast of French New Wave energy inflected with Varda’s penchant for the mystical and whimsical, 1962’s Cléo from 5 to 7 transpires in more or less real time over 90 minutes, as a pop star played by Corrine Marchand visits a fortune teller, awaits the results of a biopsy, rehearses, and maneuvers the streets and shops of Paris. The Varda touch, a sort of serene reckoning with issues both practical and cosmic, already exists to great effect in this film, which landed at #14 on the 2022 Sight & Sound critics’ poll of the greatest films of all time.

Terrestrial Verses

A novel and humane dramatization of the daily indignities of life under an authoritarian regime, Ali Asgari and Alireza Khatami’s brief (77 minutes) but potent Terrestrial Verses consists of nine gripping scenes with a similar formal setup. The camera takes the position of an authority figure – a shop manager, an executive at a firm interviewing a potential hire, a city clerk – and faces a citizen trying to accomplish something mundane, whether it is changing a name on a form or purchasing school clothing for a young girl. Over the course of seven or eight minutes, each of these normal interactions grows to take the form of a moral inquisition, painting a resonant picture of the hassles and repression of life in contemporary Iran. Mirroring the cases of Iranian filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof (who ultimately fled the country and recently premiered his new film at Cannes), Asgari was briefly banned from leaving Iran as Terrestrial Verses made its way through the festival circuit.

Screening Times & Tickets:

“The Talk of the Town”: News from Home (1977)

The central film of our June film series, “The Talk of the Town,” is this simultaneously radical and deeply moving documentary by Chantal Akerman. Shot the year after the release of Akerman’s 1975 masterpiece, Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, News from Home finds the filmmaker revisiting her years spent in New York City in the early 1970s in the company of fellow experimental filmmakers like Jonas Mekas. Combining stunning shots of vintage Manhattan with a soundtrack comprised of Akerman’s narration of letters from her mother, News from Home is one of the great cinematic representations of dislocation and long-distance communication.

PAST SCREENINGS

“The Talk of the Town”: All About Eve (1950)

In anticipation of the opening of “Peggy Bacon: Biting, Never Bitter” on June 14, I’m really happy to kick off a June film series inspired by Bacon’s life and work. “The Talk of the Town” is a collection of five films that take distinctive perspectives on young artists trying to “make it” in the city, from the exquisitely bitchy mid-century Hollywood classic All About Eve through Noah Baumbach’s instantly iconic portrait of Millennial drift, 2012’s Frances Ha. We’ll kick things off with Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s backstage drama, still among the most nominated films of all time at the Academy Awards, and a movie that continues to delight fans of camp and acid-tipped comedy alike. The whole lineup for “The Talk of the Town” is up on our website, and I’ll have a dedicated web page for the series online soon.

Exhibition on Screen: John Singer Sargent: Fashion & Swagger

The popular “Exhibition on Screen” documentary series is back for a new season, and it begins with an examination of the portraitist John Singer Sargent and the sensational recent exhibition of his work, which was presented at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Sargent is known as the greatest portrait artist of his era. What made his ‘swagger’ portraits remarkable was his power over his sitters, what they wore and how they were presented to the audience. Through interviews with curators, contemporary fashionistas and style influencers, Exhibition on Screen’s film will examine how Sargent’s unique practice has influenced modern art, culture, and fashion.

Wildcat

A defiantly unorthodox portrait of an artist’s work and mind, the second directorial feature by Ethan Hawke (Blaze) juxtaposes episodes from the life of writer Flannery O’Connor with dramatizations of some of her most notable short stories. As portrayed by Hawke’s daughter, Maya (Asteroid City, Stranger Things), O’Connor is nearly as uncompromising in conversation as she is in her work. Wildcat chronicles a portion of the author’s life where, after returning home to Georgia for a series of tense conversations with her mother, Regina (Laura Linney, who like Hawke also appears in the film’s fictional segments), Flannery is diagnosed with lupus while working on the text that would become Wise Blood. As a director, Hawke seems to relish keeping the audience on its toes, moving fluidly between diffident portraits of Flannery and Regina and the equally challenging portraiture of O’Connor’s great works. Wildcat doesn’t introduce or contextualize its segues into fiction, instead presenting the author’s work as a peek inside her psyche that can’t be encompassed in her public presentation.

Bates Film Festival (May 17-19)

For the weekend of May 17-19, PMA Films hands the baton over to the Bates Film Festival, which will be invading Portland for the first time! The Festival begins on May 14 in Lewiston before moving here for the weekend, with most screenings held at the PMA and with our friends at SPACE Gallery. All of these screenings are free and open to the public, but registration is recommended (just follow the links on individual showtimes). The BFF team has some excellent films and exciting guests lined up for the weekend. Here’s a quick rundown of what’ll be on offer at the PMA:

-Fremont (Friday, May 17 at 2 pm) is one of last year’s indie gems, following Afghan immigrant Donya (Anaita Wali Zada) as she shuffles between her home and work at a fortune cookie factory in San Francisco, before embarking on an adventure of her own, meeting a mechanic played by The Bear’s Jeremy Allen White. Gentle and wry and shot in lovely black and white, the film can’t help but recall early work by Jim Jarmusch.

-Household Saints (Friday, May 17 at 5:30 pm) has recently been recognized as one of the key independent American films of the 1990s. Lily Taylor, Tracey Ullman, and Vincent D’Onofrio headline an ensemble cast in this story of an Italian-American family in New York City. Household Saints was recently restored and re-released to great acclaim, and writer-director Nancy Savoca will be joined by co-writer Richard Guay and actor Marianne Leone to discuss the film. Household Saints will be preceded by Savoca’s student short Renata, which also stars Leone.

-Against All Enemies (Saturday, May 18 at 12 pm) is a new documentary that investigates the ties between US military veterans and some of the most prominent extremist movements in the United States. Director/Producer Charlie Sadoff will be here to discuss the film along with Maine State Representative Laurie Osher.

-Lone Star (Saturday, May 18 at 3 pm), from 1996, is perhaps the biggest film ever made by John Sayles, one of the major independent voices in American cinema. A slow-burning mystery about secrets both open and buried, this neo-Western played a major part in the rise of Matthew McConaughey and offered a rare leading role to the great, Oscar-nominated actor Chris Cooper. Sayles and Cooper will be joined by co-star Maggie Renzi for a discussion after the film.

-Short Film Showcase (Sunday, May 19 at 12 pm) – Keep your eyes on our website for a full briefing on this shorts program, which will be followed by a Q&A with Chris Cooper, Jared Lank, Connie Shi, Matthew Tyler, Marianne Leone, and Mariah Hernandez-Fitch.

-Anatomy of a Fall (Sunday, May 19 at 3 pm), Justine Triet’s Oscar-winning hit, will wrap up our screenings at the PMA. I’m not sure what else needs to be said about this irresistible, irresolvable mystery about our public and private lives, except to say that even if you’ve seen it already I think it heartily rewards a second viewing.

The Old Oak

A true giant of British filmmaking, the long and storied career of Ken Loach comes to a touching close with his final film, The Old Oak. Loach has been a stalwart of the American arthouse scene for decades, from his early masterpiece Kes (1969) to more recent, Cannes Palme d’Or-winning films like The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006) and I, Daniel Blake (2016). (Loach is one of nine filmmakers who have won the top prize at the festival twice.) As the times have evolved, so have Loach’s concerns: He is almost relentlessly keyed in to issues that touch the working classes of Britain and other countries, and his earnest approach to this material is always a nice reprieve from overheated political debates. Such is the case with The Old Oak, which concerns new and old residents of an English mining village. When Syrian refugees fleeing conflict arrive to a hamlet that has fallen on hard times, they are greeted with equal amounts vitriol and generosity. Racist attitudes arise at the titular bar, which owner TJ (Dave Turner) is struggling to keep open; through a friendship with new arrival Yara (Ebla Mari), TJ revisits aspects of his past and sees new possibilities for his establishment and his community. Loach’s no-nonsense approach to this story is refreshingly unvarnished, but it’s also unexpectedly hopeful.

Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World

As the filmmakers of the Romanian New Wave of the 2000s have mostly settled into sturdy and consistently strong careers, the youngest member of the group, Radu Jude, continues to explore cinema’s potential as a contemporary art form, a medium that grasps for meaning in a world where all the information passing our eyes feels increasingly hard to synthesize. His last feature film, the puckish Bad Luck Banging or Loony p*rn, was something of a breakthrough for US audiences, a vibrant and chaotic comedy that captured the pervasive, unmotivated anger of the covid era. Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World operates in a similar structural manner, contrasting a hectic day in the life of a film production assistant with segments gesturing toward Romania’s political history. I think this is Jude’s best film yet, and surely one of the key films of 2024.

Ilinca Manolache (a remarkable discovery) stars as Angela, who we primarily observe navigating the hectic traffic and angry drivers of Bucharest as she shuttles between work tasks. Her job is to record workers who have been injured on the job; the company these injured workers were employed by intends to choose the most photogenic and sanitized employee to star in a video about workplace safety. This cynical enterprise speaks to Jude’s overriding concern with structural worker exploitation and the sad state of the modern economy writ large, not to mention the manner in which ostentatious figures on social media can develop real power in the world. (Angela frequently takes breaks to post online as an Andrew Tate-style figure.) The movie is an invigorating discourse on uniquely modern frustrations, one that culminates in a remarkable final shot/scene that runs somewhere in the neighborhood of forty minutes and is somehow simultaneously devastatingly funny and simply devastating.

“Edward Yang’s City Symphonies”: Yi Yi (2000)

One of the great films of the 21st century, Yi Yi is the landmark final work by the great Taiwanese director Edward Yang, who we’ve been featuring for the past month. Even if you’ve missed other films in this series, I think you’ll find Yi Yi to be welcoming and ultimately overwhelming. Notably more optimistic and empathetic than his previous work, Yi Yi observes a year in the life of a well-to-do family in Taipei, placing its four primary members in isolation as they embark on their own journeys to understand themselves and the world around them. Beginning with a wedding and ending with a funeral, Yi Yi is a film of tremendous cumulative heft, where Yang’s trademark compositions full of separations and reflections speak to a loneliness and searching in modern life. It’s a gorgeous movie that culminates in one of the sweetest tear-jerker finales I’ve ever seen.

The Arc of Oblivion (with filmmaker Ian Cheney 4/28)

Sweet, amiable, and intellectually promiscuous, the new documentary by the prolific Maine-based filmmaker Ian Cheney (King Corn, The Most Unknown) is a delightful and wandering journey that considers what happens to our memories when they have mostly moved into a digital realm. As part of his quixotic mission, Cheney fashions a real wooden ark on his parents’ property (indeed, this film was first screened there!) and travels the world asking experts and thought leaders (including documentary heroes Werner Herzog and Kirsten Johnson) about the strangely impermanent state of digital record-keeping, and how we should remember our work and one another. We’ll be showing The Arc of Oblivion all weekend, but if you’re able you should plan to attend the 3 pm screening on Sunday, April 28, where Cheney will join us to discuss the film.

PMA Films: Don Hertzfeldt's amazing new animated short, a document of contemporary Iran, and more "Talk of the Town" — Portland Museum of Art (1)

“Edward Yang’s City Symphonies”: Mahjong (1996)

A blend of the ruthless urban ambition of Yang’s A Confucian Confusion and a somewhat Tarantino-inflected gangster film, Edward Yang’s quite dark and quite funny Mahjong is the other big discovery of our series commemorating the director. Here, Yang focuses on the margins of the social order, developing a sprawling story around a quartet of young wannabe toughs (including Chang Chen, the unforgettable star of A Brighter Summer Day) who are working on various cons, including luring an isolated foreigner (Virginie Ledoyen, then known for work in early films by Olivier Assayas before getting a starring role in Leonardo DiCaprio’s Titanic follow-up The Beach) into their seedy schemes. Even more than A Confucian Confusion, Mahjong is a report from a metropolis that Yang feels has lost its soul, and the film deftly balances this anger with the more comic hijinks of his plot.

FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992) (Free Family Day Screening)

Another month, another free Family Day screening! To mark Earth Day, this month we’ll be screening a classic for the Millennial set, Bill Kroyer’s 1992 animated adventure FernGully: The Last Rainforest. As always with these shows, entry is free but reservations are appreciated.

Inundation District

Also screening next weekend is a new Boston Globe documentary on a subject we are becoming too familiar with: coastal flooding in highly developed areas. David Abel’s Inundation District unravels decades of unfettered development in Boston’s Seaport district, an area built on unsolid ground that has long been prone to localized flooding. Both a hearty denunciation of corporate and governmental short-sightedness and a work that seeks answers to some inevitable dilemmas, Abel’s film offers a strong primer on where we’re at as sea levels creep inexorably upward.

Nostalghia (1983)

I’m excited to show more newly-remastered classics at PMA Films now that we have a projector (and surround sound) that can help make these masterpieces sing, so I couldn’t resist the chance to screen a new 4K version of Andrei Tarkovsky’s alluring and mysterious second-to-last feature, 1983’s Nostalghia. The director’s first film made outside of the Soviet Union, Nostalghia is a direct response to that feeling of existing outside of the world you currently inhabit. Appropriately dreamlike and undeniably personal, Nostalghia observes a Russian scholar (Oleg Yankovsky) on a research trip to Italy to look into the life of an 18th-century Russian composer who spent some time there. Unsure of what to do with himself, he winds up spending time (often by a stunning mineral pool) with a man who was expelled from an asylum after they were closed by Italy’s fascist government. For a film defined by its sense of alienation and uncertainty, Tarkovsky’s imagery remains purposeful and second-to-none, gradually building to one of his most sublime finales.

PMA Films: Don Hertzfeldt's amazing new animated short, a document of contemporary Iran, and more "Talk of the Town" — Portland Museum of Art (2)

“Edward Yang’s City Symphonies”: A Confucian Confusion (1994)

Currently selling out screenings during its run at the Harvard Film Archive, our look at the films of Edward Yang continues with my favorite recent discovery from his oeuvre, 1994’s little-seen ensemble dramedy A Confucian Confusion. An immediate response to a moment of massive and profligate corporate expansion, Yang’s film mostly follows the head of an ambitious but flailing public relations firm (Ni Shu-chun) as her lack of direction and purpose is called out by her fiancé and, perhaps more devastatingly, her assistant. Spanning perspectives, industries, and social classes, Yang’s remarkably efficient storytelling paints what feels like a comprehensive portrait of an aspirational milieu where some workers are content to coast on their inheritance or family reputation while others are desperate to get ahead; a resonant counterpoint is offered by a writer obsessed with the idea of Confucius returning to the modern world with some choice words about everyone’s behavior. A Confucian Confusion squeezes an astonishing amount of plot and ideas into its two hours, and it ends with one of the most surprising and lovely moments in the director’s filmography.

La Chimera

One of the most lively and endearing filmmakers on the international scene, Alice Rohrwacher arrives at the PMA with what will likely remain one of my favorite films of the year, La Chimera. Rohrwacher is a bard of both chosen families and the slippage between tradition and the modern world. I would hazard to guess that the filmmaker is best known stateside for her work on the terrific HBO show My Brilliant Friend, a sumptuous and complex adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s “Neapolitan trilogy.” You can sense that series developing a new and vital energy as she became more involved with it, and that vibrance is all over her features, from 2014’s The Wonders (about a family of beekeepers living off the grid who decide to enter a reality show competition) to 2018’s exquisitely beautiful Happy as Lazzaro, about a naif-like farmworker who develops a friendship that spans time.

La Chimera’s main marketing point is a star turn by Josh O’Connor of The Crown, the memorable queer indie God’s Own Country, and Luca Guadagnino’s forthcoming tennis throuple film Challengers. Speaking suitably capable Italian, by and large, O’Connor is a humorously sad and lumpy presence here, pining for a lost love while being tempted back into his bygone life of raiding tombs and selling the goods on the black market. The getting-the-old-gang-back-together elements of the film are charming, populated by a sea of unforgettable faces, but it’s Rohrwacher who is the real star here, flitting between aspect ratios (the film was shot by the Hélène Louvart, one of the best cinematographers working right now) and turning every interaction into a riveting discourse on history and modernity. La Chimera is her most commanding work yet and undeniable proof she is one of the more exciting filmmakers around.

Hundreds of Beavers

Bouncing off a recent, sold-out screening at SPACE Gallery, I’m excited to squeeze in a select few screenings of the true cult sensation of cinema this year, Mike Cheslik’s hilarious and boundlessly inventive Hundreds of Beavers. Shot in black and white in the style of a silent film (albeit with a fair amount of audible harrumphing), Beavers stars Ryland Brickson Cole Tews (also a producer and screenwriter on the film) as Jean Kayak, a drunken applejack salesman forced to battle wits with hordes of romance in order to save his business and, of course, find his one true love. Part Chaplin/Keaton-esque slapstick film, part Looney Tunes caper, and a total joy, Beavers mixes classic comic schtick with an occasionally modern sensibility in seamless ways. Apart from the few evidently human cast members, every other character is an animal in a life-size mascot suit, lending a welcome tinge of absurdity to the proceedings, which culminate in a set piece that is equal parts Metropolis and Monsters, Inc. What makes the film really sing are the technical chops behind it: despite some scenarios that could feel repetitive, Cheslik and his team are constantly mixing up their filming style, framing, blocking, and cutting the action in new and precise ways. It’s a ton of fun, and if you have kids that are a little older they’ll probably also have a blast.

Beauty and the Beast (1991) (Free Family Day screening)

Dovetailing with a Family Day themed around the decorative arts, we’re offering a free screening of the 1991 Disney animated classic, Beauty and the Beast. (I promise that we are and will not show the visually horrifying 2017 remake.) Landing right in between The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, Gary Trousdale and Kirk Wise’s film is, to me, the peak of the 1990s Disney renaissance and maybe a peak for Disney overall, equally successful as a comedy, romance, and action film. Be our guest!

The Teachers’ Lounge

One of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best International Feature, Ilker Çatak’s The Teachers’ Lounge is a pressure-cooker thriller and – for someone who spent much of last year learning to teach in high school classrooms – a total nightmare. Ambient, almost viral tension is the default mode from the outset in a German school where a spate of thefts is the talk of the campus. New teacher Carla (an excellent Leonie Benesch, who had a notable role as a teenager in Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon) objects to the school administration’s aggressive attempts to find the thief, but she suddenly finds herself with a possible suspect in mind, and the lengths she goes to identify them compromise her apparent moral clarity. The Teachers’ Lounge keeps the twists and developments coming, but it’s most interesting to me when it’s in the classroom, where a class of animated 7th graders (all really good young actors) embrace Carla’s teaching style until rumors about her involvement in the school’s roiling scandal really hit home. This element of the film is particularly well drawn, and not just a little scary to think about.

Marguerite: From the Bauhaus to Pond Farm (Free screening with filmmaker David Washburn and panel discussion)

On April 7, we’re pleased to welcome back Portland-based filmmaker David Washburn, who will be bringing an excellent panel of guests to accompany his new short film, Marguerite: From the Bauhaus to Pond Farm, which has been making the rounds on some PBS stations in recent weeks. The film traces the life of the Bauhaus ceramicist Marguerite Wildenhain, the first woman designated a “Master Potter,” who founded a pottery school in Northern California after fleeing Nazi Germany. After the film, former Maine Poet Laureate and director of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts will moderate a discussion with Washburn and local potters Lucy Breslin, Toby Rosenberg, and Marian Baker. This is a free screening, but reservations are appreciated.

“Edward Yang’s City Symphonies”: A Brighter Summer Day (1991)

On Saturdays in April, we’ll be screening some films by the late Taiwanese director Edward Yang on the occasion of new restorations of two of his least-seen films. In my biased opinion, this series is a must-see, and the people of New York City agree with me (a recent Yang retrospective is now the biggest ever such series in the history of Film at Lincoln Center). To emphasize my enthusiasm, I’ve also written an essay to accompany the series that will be available to attendees in a handsome printed form at each screening. We’ll kick off “Edward Yang’s City Symphonies” with what is perhaps Yang’s best film, 1991’s A Brighter Summer Day, a sprawling chronicle of youths in revolt in late 1950s Taiwan. Rediscovered in recent years thanks to a Blu-ray release from the Criterion Collection, A Brighter Summer Day is one of two Yang films to land on the prestigious top 100 of the 2022 Sight and Sound critics’ poll of the greatest films of all time. Centered around the seemingly placid middle-class boy Xiao S’ir (Chang Chen) as he flirts with both girls and membership in one of his town’s street gangs, the film elegantly draws out a massive story (with over 100 speaking roles) that’s equally interested in the invasion of liberated Western culture and repressive political turmoil. It’s the type of film where you feel like you could frame and hang every shot, but there’s also tremendous life and tension lurking within each of Yang’s exquisite compositions.

Midsommar Director’s Cut

To cap off this year’s Art in Bloom, we’ll also be screening the director’s cut of Ari Aster’s 2019 slow-burn daytime horror freakout Midsommar, surely a modern peak as far as floral design (and maypoles, and psychedelics) in recent film is concerned. This is, I believe, the first time this version of the film has screened theatrically in Maine, and while I consider myself an Aster skeptic (apologies to Hereditary fans), Midsommar nails the uneasy, almost Kubrickian blend of comedy and dread the director is always striving toward. Florence Pugh, delivering a performance of co-dependency, insecurity, and post-traumatic grief that people are probably writing thesis papers about, stars as Dani, a twentysomething who finds herself with little to hold on to in her life except her perhaps well-intentioned but ultimately oafish boyfriend, Christian (Jack Reynor). When Dani hesitantly gets herself invited along to a boys’ trip to observe a Midsommar festival in Sweden, things get strange for everyone rather quickly as ancient rituals shock this set of young tourists. Aster dealt with self-doubt and fear more ostentatiously in last year’s unwieldy Beau Is Afraid, but in Midsommar the horrifying developments of the plot are beautifully threaded with Dani’s gradual understanding of her relationship, and then herself.

Here

We are almost a quarter of the way through the year, but with the extended Oscar season it feels like we are only now getting around to the cinema of 2024. Fortunately, the first great 2024 film I saw pairs very well with this weekend of Art in Bloom events and activities; just be aware that Friday, March 22 is your only opportunity to catch this one in Portland!

Here is the fourth feature film by the Belgian director Bas Devos, who of late has trained his attention on the country’s migrant workers in a deeply humanistic fashion. A bit like Wim Wenders’s Perfect Days, the film begins following the routine of Romanian Stefan (an excellent, hunky Stefan Gota), who works in construction between meals out and at home and long walks through Brussels. Planning a trip home that may become permanent, Stefan begins to visit friends to say goodbye, but he also has a series of encounters with Shuxiu (Liyo Gong), a doctoral student studying mosses who also works in her mother’s Chinese restaurant. Tranquil and quietly transfixing from the outset, the budding friendship (romance?) between Stefan and Shuxiu unfolds with a sublime attention to detail, not only the behavior of these two characters but also their interest in the natural world. Here is an unassuming film, but it’s surprisingly hard to shake, a quick bite you’ll find yourself recalling fondly for weeks on end.

Anselm

Before you venture to the Lower Ground Floor for Anselm, be sure to enter the museum, look to your left, and pause. There, you’ll see an enormous, untitled 1996 piece by Anselm Kiefer that conjures growth and decay simultaneously. Similar pieces crop up periodically in Wim Wenders’s striking documentary about the German artist, which was shot in 6K resolution with 3D cameras. (Not many theaters were able to screen the film this way, unfortunately; this is a 2D screening.) You’ll be rather conscious of Wenders’s technological ambitions during the opening stretch of the film, but its beauty remains undisturbed. Like Sophie Fiennes’s 2011 documentary about Kiefer (Over Your Cities Grasses Will Grow), Anselm rejects the input of talking heads and patiently observes the artist at work before allowing him to speak on his aesthetic and inspirational foundations. Primarily structured around phases of Kiefer’s work, Wenders adorns the film with some archival footage of Kiefer speaking in public, as well as a few quite well done sequences where actors (including Kiefer’s son and Wenders’s grandnephew) portray key moments in the Kiefer’s development. These decisions help to evoke Kiefer’s thoughts on process and historical memory quite beautifully, and extended sequences of the artist at work are well attuned to displaying how he achieves the unique texture of his finished products.

Jules au pays d’Asha/Adventures in the Land of Asha (Free screening presented by Alliance Française du Maine)

This Thursday evening, we’ll be open for a rare (and free!) weeknight film selected by our friends at Alliance Française du Maine, which will be followed by a brief discussion about the film. This family-friendly adventure, directed by Sophie Farkas Bolla, is set in 1940s Quebec and follows a young boy with a rare skin condition as he encounters a stranger in the forest and questions his family’s attitudes towards the rights of Canada’s Indigenous people.

Perfect Days

The German director Wim Wenders has been a beloved fixture of the arthouse for decades now; he’s the director of an eclectic mix of classics such as Paris, Texas, Wings of Desire, and Pina, and we’re fortunate to have two brand new films from him showing here in the next few weeks. First up is Perfect Days, which has already grossed an incredible $24 million worldwide (a record for Wenders, who has had a couple of really popular documentaries) and is Japan’s nominee for Best International Feature at this year’s Academy Awards. Koji Yakusho (Shall We Dance?) stars as Hirayama, a man of routine who spends his days cleaning Tokyo’s rather stunning public toilets—this film actually originated as a project designed to feature these spaces—and his remaining time reveling in his routines: reading, listening to cassettes, and dining out. The film luxuriates in Hirayama’s tranquility and taste so quietly that you actually wonder for a while whether the protagonist will speak at all. He does, and as you may sense a few gentle plot developments slightly jar his display of outward peace. Yakusho, a striking and beautiful screen presence, is exquisite here in a film that shares more than a few commonalities with Jim Jarmusch’s sublime Paterson. It’s an ode to a job well done and a way of life that feels increasingly inaccessible in our information-saturated age. Wenders’s boomer-baiting soundtrack is a bonus.

2024 Oscar Nominated Shorts - Live Action

Wrapping up our (very popular so far!) Oscar shorts screenings for this year is the narrative, live action program. Regular attendees will likely be familiar with the milieu of this category, which tends to toggle between shorts filled with winsome humor and those rooted in tear-jerking, devastating plot twists. As a pretty strong fan of Wes Anderson’s recent, somewhat alienating work, I was still surprised at the narrative complexity and sophistication of The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, the first of four shorts based on Roald Dahl stories that were released on Netflix last year. Each of those shorts are well worth your time, but the sheer gusto with which Anderson (and his huge, game cast) reimagine modes of storytelling in Henry Sugar is thrilling, even dizzying. Among the heavier titles, of which there are three, I think the major standout is Invincible, directed by Vincent René-Lortie, which traces the final days of an incarcerated teenage boy. Beautifully acted and constructed with shrewd, intuitive editing, Invincible brings a harsh story to light with an unusual sensitivity for this short narrative format. I have nothing kind to say about the short that strikes me as likely to win this category, but I’ll keep that to myself!

2024 Oscar Nominated Shorts - Documentary

Most of this year’s nominated documentary shorts take on highly specific issues: existence in a liminal space between Taiwan and China (the sharp Island in Between), the wave of challenges to literature in school libraries sweeping the country (The ABCs of Book Banning), or the small band of dedicated works repairing musical instruments for one of the nation’s largest school districts (The Last Repair Shop). Among some healthy competition, the best film of the bunch might be the sweetest and least “important.” Sean Wang and Sam Davis’s Nǎi NaiandWài Pó is about Wang’s two grandmothers, who pass their remaining days living together (and sleeping in the same bed) in China, and it’s irresistible and effervescent. Among the more politically engaged shorts, I’d give the edge to The Barber of Little Rock, a genuinely inspiring and well-constructed study of a business owner moved to improve life for his entire community.

2024 Oscar Nominated Shorts - Live Action

Oscar season begins at PMA Films with our annual, extremely popular showcase of this year’s nominees for Best Animated Short Film. Broadly speaking, the nominated films in this category take on a somewhat darker tone than usual, steering away from comedy and into musings on war and bodily autonomy. The most inventive film of the bunch, Yegane Moghaddam’s Our Uniform, is a dazzlingly rendered reflection on the restrictive fashion mandated at a girls’ primary school in Iran, designed with a great fusion of form and content. Ninety-Five Senses, conceived by the Napoleon Dynamite director Jared Hess (!) and his partner Jerusha Hess, balances folksiness and light comedy with the bittersweet as a man reflects on his time in prison. The best and most complete film of the bunch to my eyes is Tal Kantor and Amit R. Gicelter’s Letter to a Pig, a complex evocation of historical memory that covers a great deal of ground in 17 ominous but riveting minutes. Per usual, I would describe one of the shorts in this program as an ”absolute howler,” but I suspect its shameless sentimentality might just give it the edge come Oscar night.

I Heard It Through the Grapevine (1982)

Recently restored by the great folks at the Harvard Film Archive, Dick Fontaine and Pat Hartley’s 1982 film I Heard It Through the Grapevine is a complex, invaluable, and altogether remarkable document, following James Baldwin as he revisits pivotal spaces in the fight for civil rights, interacting with activists, writers, and others along the way. Moving from Atlanta to Birmingham and eventually all the way up to Newark, Baldwin (at an advanced age but as intellectually potent and spry as ever) observes how some of these locations seem preserved in amber while others have given way to fraught memorials or the onward march of capitalism and gentrification. (These feelings are especially potent after two more generations, as most of these spaces have been completely reimagined all over again.) Not unlike Occupied City, I Heard It Through the Grapevine prompts dizzying thoughts about historical memory and forgetfulness, and Fontaine and Hartley’s stealthily complex construction asks the viewer to do a lot of the work of processing these images alongside Baldwin and his compatriots (including Amiri Baraka, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, and Chinua Achebe). Less a polemic than a rich and fraught march through a history of progress (thwarted or hard-won) and atrocity, the film feels particularly relevant right now.

NYICFF Kid Flicks: Celebrating Black Stories

As we did last year, we’re pleased to offer a free screening of this year’s “Celebrating Black Stories” shorts program from New York International Children’s Film Festival’s Kid Flicks. This selection of five shorts runs under an hour, and it’s appropriate for ages 8 and up. Celebrating Black Stories spotlights Black narratives that transcend national boundaries, culture, and language with films in English, French, Shona, and even ASL! Join a young astronomer during a lunar eclipse, a meaningful first visit to a barbershop, and witness the magic of a neighborhood castle all in one sitting with this immersive collection of films highlighting Black storytelling.

The Promised Land

One of many strong films that were shortlisted but not nominated for Best International Feature at this year’s Academy Awards (I am pouring one out for Fallen Leaves, personally), Nikolaj Arcel’s The Promised Land is a very handsomely mounted historical epic that offers a unique star performance from Mads Mikkelsen. Best known for playing villains (Casino Royale), the odd average joe (Another Round), or an exceptionally creative cannibal (NBC’s extraordinary, short-lived Hannibal), here Mikkelsen exudes stolid charisma as a Danish captain of no noble heritage who seeks to establish farmland on Denmark’s famously inhospitable Jutland moors. Complications ensue due to the greed of magistrates and landowners seeking to profit from the terrain, as well as the presence of formerly indentured serfs and Romani Travellers in the area. Shades of films like Gladiator and Braveheart pop up throughout the narrative arc (though this is more of a drama than an action film, be warned there are some harrowing moments of violence), but Arcel also pays a surprising amount of attention to the land and the nuts and bolts of creating a community from the ground up.

Occupied City (presented with Maine Jewish Film Festival)

Mammoth and hynotic, the latest film from Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave, Widows) uses the simplest of tools to create a remarkably sophisticated portrait of historicity. Using material from the filmmaker Bianca Stigter’s book Atlas of an Occupied City (Amsterdam 1940-1945) (Stitger and McQueen are partners), McQueen often literally goes from door to door, filming the exteriors of spaces where individual tragedies, events, and stories of resistance took place during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. As you witness these spaces, an exquisitely neutral narrator (Melanie Hyams, who deserves some kind of award for her performance) recites the address and describes what happened there. While listening to this, life itself goes on: people walk or bike by, children folic or listen to music, others sightsee. Surprisingly often, people gather, some to participate in anti-racist demonstrations and others to protest conditions under the pandemic lockdowns, which were at their height as McQueen worked on the film.

As the film progresses, McQueen mixes up this rhythm with some interviews and more expressionistic touches, but even Occupied City’s predominating formula presents the viewer with a dizzying amount to reckon with, as one history is brought back to life and another is transpiring at the same time. Like with any long film, your attention will wander towards a certain passerby or the particular qualities of the narrator, and something about McQueen’s approach seems to invite this curiosity. Totaling over four hours (with a 15 minute intermission), Occupied City is a formidable work, but I think you’ll find that it’s less imposing and a bit more playful than you may expect.

Origin

Written and directed by Academy Award nominee Ava DuVernay, Origin chronicles the tragedy and triumph of Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson as she investigates a global phenomenon of epic proportions.

In adapting this ambitious nonfiction work of history and social movements, DuVernay takes the audacious approach of observing Wilkerson (here played by Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) as she conducts research for the book and undergoes personal challenges along the way. During an Oscar season brimming with stories about writers and thinkers, Origin takes a unique remarkably active approach to the pursuit of knowledge and its personal implications, as well as its sociopolitical meaning.

Those Who Wait (with filmmakers Chani Bockwinkel and Ty Burdenski)

Way back in July, I trekked up to Waterville to catch a couple of screenings at the Maine International Film Festival. On a bit of a whim, I decided to check out a curious-sounding narrative feature set in 19th-century Portland and shot in Maine. To my surprise, the film turned out not only to be one of the best and most original Maine features I’ve seen in quite some time, but it also happened to be shot in part at the PMA’s own McLellan House! We’ll show the film this Friday with the filmmakers in attendance.

Those Who Wait, directed by Chani Bockwinkel and Ty Burdenski, is an ethereal and quite entrancing look at the Millerite movement. Led by William Miller and powered by the spread of speedy printing technology, the Millerites believed in the imminent Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and Those Who Wait envisions a community of Portlanders oscillating between fervor and disappointment at Miller’s proclamations and subsequent revisions. Shot mostly in rural locations (including the Denmark Arts Center) with loving period detail, Bockwinkel and Burdenski’s striking film probes the inherent dissonance in believing in a prophecy and believing that the world is about to end. We’re thrilled to have the filmmakers traveling to Maine to discuss their film and field audience questions after the screening.

Godard Cinema + Trailer of a Film That Will Never Exist: ‘Phony Wars’

It’s a tall order to contain the work of the most significant film artist of the second half of the twentieth century into a 100 minute documentary. Godard Cinema director Cyril Leuthy seems aware of this, concluding his film with Jean-Luc Godard’s mammoth 1988 documentary Histoire(s) du cinema. It may be a minor shame not to learn more about the French New Wave filmmaker’s final stretch of work, but this highly intelligent documentary more than makes up for it with a rigorous focus on the director’s political and aesthetic aims, as they evolved from 1960’s Breathless through his Maoist period with La Chinoise and the Dziga Vertov Group up until the 1980s. (Godard’s 1980s, a remarkable stretch that feels accessible and uniquely ripe for rediscovery today, are highlighted by Every Man For Himself and King Lear.) Godard’s politics and aesthetics are entangled in a way that makes some of his films difficult to parse, and in this regard (among others) Leuthy’s film achieves a rich lucidity of insight.

Preceding Godard Cinema will be what is, at least for now, the final extant work by Godard, Trailer of a Film That Will Never Exist: ‘Phony Wars.’ In its opening minutes, focused on an abstract painting without dialogue, the project feels like an attention grab, but then it quickly evolves into something that feels new and uniquely Godardian, a fascinating mélange of media and impressions that would serve as the building blocks of a film we’ll never see. At once revealing and elusive, it feels like an appropriate swan song.

All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt

Imagine a melding of Julie Dash’s landmark Daughters of the Dust and more recent films by Terrence Malick and you’ll find yourself somewhere in the uncanny environment created by Raven Jackson in her jaw-droppingly beautiful debut feature, All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt. Set in rural Mississippi between the 1970s and the present, Jackson’s film is an impressionistic portrait of Mack, who is played by Kaylee Nicole Johnson as a child and Charleen McClure as a teen and adult. There are the building blocks of a biography of Mack littered throughout the movie, but Jackson reveals them in oblique fashion. Dialogue is spare and doesn’t go out of its way to connect the dots of the film, which flits through time and utilizes Mack’s braids as a grounding presence. This is an intensely physical film, concerned with how our bodies interact with one another and the land we call home. Shot on 35mm film with sumptuous colors and textures, Jackson conjures a remarkably vivid world in All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, and does so through the simplest of means: the hands of young lovers dancing with one another, or the sound of feet settling into wet sand. Jackson’s debut is nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards and, along with Past Lives, it’s the most acclaimed first film of 2023.

A Still Small Voice

An intimate and revelatory little documentary that deserves to be seen far and wide, A Still Small Voice follows Margaret “Mati” Engel as she trains to become a chaplain at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital. Shot during but after the peak of the pandemic, Luke Lorentzen’s film is about Mati’s struggle to sustain her faith and motivation to do good work while being exposed to a litany of everyday tragedies. (Any healthcare worker can come see the film for free at 3 pm on Saturday, January 13.) Being a chaplain is about offering comfort and counsel to anyone who requests it, and the film takes time to focus on the structures that make this heavy psychological work possible: these include meditative and very personal staff meetings as well as one-on-one time between Mati and her supervisor, David. A Still Small Voice is quite potent when it observes Mati with a series of patients, but it’s revelatory as it explores the relationship between Mati and David. Here, a film that seems to be about faith and dedication transforms into something much more relatable: how we do or don’t establish boundaries between work and life, and how we handle the demands of work that is intrinsically meaningful and emotionally complex.

Fallen Leaves

List-making season has begun, and I am absolutely stoked that we’ll be showing two of my very favorite films of 2023 for two weeks over the holiday season. (I’ll send out an official list in this space in January.) While they could not be more distinct in length and ambition, both of them are perfect films to watch with family, friends, or even a date. Fallen Leaves is the latest and perhaps greatest film from the Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismäki, whose aesthetic (deadpan, funny, cynical about the state of the world world but deeply empathetic towards its characters) has remained consistent over the decades. He has rarely, though, devised a film as succinct and perfect as this one, which follows a supermarket worker (Alma Pöysti, who earned a surprising but richly deserved Golden Globe nomination for her performance here) and an alcoholic tradesman (Jussi Vatanen) as they fumble towards love. The backdrop is vintage Kaurismäki: radio broadcasts about the war in Ukraine populate many scenes but otherwise the film, sumptuously lit and fastidiously designed, feels as though it was beamed in from the 1960s.

Energized by oscillating currents of hope and despair, Fallen Leaves is blunt about the indignities of wage labor and its emotional consequences, but it’s just as keen to luxuriate in coping mechanisms: karaoke nights, cinema, and a drink or two or three. Kaurismäki slips classical rom-com tropes in between moments of disappointment, and these flourishes land beautifully because his characters so richly deserve them. I’ve always absorbed Kaurismäki’s films with a kind of neutral pleasure, but Fallen Leaves is just exceptionally lovely, and about as perfect a movie as I’ve seen all year.

The Muppet Christmas Carol (free Third Thursday screening)

As part of this month’s Third Thursday festivities, I’m delighted to screen a movie that I, a childless, basically middle-aged man, still watch almost every holiday season! The Muppet Christmas Carol is probably the last truly excellent Muppet movie, capturing that mix of earnestness, fidelity to the source material, and irreverence that we come to our felted friends for. Michael Caine makes for a terrific Scrooge, but it’s really the overwhelming population of puppet creations that continue to thrill me about this one. We’ve got vegetables, we’ve got figure skating animals, extremely cool ghosts, and clever casting for all of your stalwart Muppet favorites. Join us!

Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros

Our greatest documentarian, the incomparable Frederick Wiseman is best known as a chronicler of institutions and municipalities ranging from the British Museum (National Museum) to Belfast, Maine (Belfast, Maine). Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros, which was recently awarded Best Documentary of the year honors by both the New York and Los Angeles film critic societies, proves that Wiseman is still able to find unique byways into his work into his 90s. A film about the functioning of a French restaurant that has held three Michelin stars for 50 years, the family that has sustained that consistency for decades, and the process of bringing great food and memorable experiences to life, Menus-Plaisirs conjoins its themes with nearly impossible elegance. Just as, for instance, one element of a dish can overpower the rest, the Troisgros family seems acutely sensitive to the harmony of a restaurant, both in the dining room and in the kitchen.

Even more than other Wiseman films, the magic here is in the editing. We’ll spend a few minutes with a baker, mixing chocolate into the base of a cake or other dessert, not quite sure what the dish will turn into. Much, much later, the film will return to the dish. We don’t miss a step, but we don’t see it all at once. This sense of curiosity (“Wait, what’s going on over there”) permeates the film and proves quite infectious. I have a quite intense allergy to listening to people (especially chefs) discuss food as though it is art, but Menus-Plaisirs is not about putting food on a pedestal: it’s about how making great food requires hard work, attention to detail, and intelligence. Though filled with gorgeous images of both works-in-process and final products, Wiseman ensures that the overwhelming feeling of his documentary is of a job (mostly, aside from a few amusing instances) well done and the harmony necessary to do your best work. What’s more, Wiseman’s interest in how the multi-generational family that owns the restaurant align and diverge in their philosophies culminates in a climactic monologue that is tremendously moving. Often when taking in a work of such mammoth length as Menus-Plaisirs, which runs a positively breezy four hours, you can’t help but wonder when you’ve arrived at the final moments, and here that realization hits you with a great force.

Nice People (with filmmakers Jeff Griecci and Ian Carlsen)

The first feature film made by local industry stalwarts Jeff Griecci and Ian Carlsen, Nice People is a funny, bittersweet, and ambitious collection of interlocking tales set in Portland and elsewhere in Maine. Touching on issues of gentrification and loneliness by way of clever and deadpan storytelling, the stories in Nice People wisely comment on morality and its consequences. It’s been a long journey to the big screen for Nice People, which was a years-long labor of love for Griecci and Carlsen (who, in the interest of full disclosure, I am friendly with). I first watched a cut of the film in 2020 (!), but it officially premiered at the Maine International Film Festival this summer, and boasted a trio of sold-out screenings at SPACE Gallery last month. Griecci and Carlsen will be in-person at this screening, which will conclude with a discussion with the duo. Initial pre-sales for this event have been brisk, so it may be smart to purchase tickets in advance.

Monster

The latest drama from Shoplifters director Hirokazu Kore-eda is a typically complex, empathetic, and stirring drama. Monster, which won the Best Screenplay prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, concerns an 11 year-old boy who is perceived as troubled and bullying by authorities at his school. Kore-eda complicates this material by presenting it from three different perspectives: those of the child, his mother (played by Sakura Ando, so extraordinary in Shoplifters), and his teacher. Each point of view proves fractured and incomplete in its own way, but the film’s final hour proves to be an unexpected and rather extraordinary piece of generous, expressionistic filmmaking. A victim of the rather baroque manner in which the Academy Award nominees for Best International Feature are determined (Japan’s submission this year is directed by the German filmmaker Wim Wenders!), Monster is proving to be an under-the-radar release for an esteemed filmmaker with a track record of successful, audience-pleasing films. This is his most widely acclaimed film in years, hitting Rotten Tomatoes’ 10 best-reviewed films of the year list, and it also boasts some of the final work of the late composer Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Strange Way of Life + The Human Voice

While we haven’t seen a new Pedro Almodóvar film since 2019’s great Pain and Glory, the iconic and singular Spanish filmmaker has been at work on his first English-language films, both of which run for about 30 minutes. Presented together this weekend, we’ll be showing much buzzed-about new gay cowboy drama Strange Way of Life, starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal, alongside 2020’s lavishly acclaimed The Human Voice, starring Tilda Swinton. Both films stem from a unique collaboration with the fashion house Saint Laurent, who have set up a new production arm, with these two films being the first two releases of Saint Laurent Productions. At our screenings, the two shorts will be followed by a half-hour, pre-recorded Q&A with Almodóvar himself.

We Are the Warriors (with filmmakers David Camlin and Megan Grumbling)

Winner of the Tourmaline Prize for Best Feature Made in Maine at this year’s Maine International Film Festival, David Camlin and Megan Grumbling’s We Are the Warriors addresses an issue many schools and sports teams have confronted in recent years. What does a mascot that invokes Native American culture represent, and does it honor or injure those from that culture? This debate became a conflagration after a Wells High School football game in 2017, as an Abegweit Mi’kmaq spectator from a visiting team observed the offensive ways in which students mocked and exploited Native culture. This incident led to widespread news coverage, but it also yielded a more measured debate about the past and future of the WHS mascot. Camlin and Grumbling’s film encompasses hundreds of years of Indigenous and colonial history as it also gives time and thought to the many nuanced sides of this discussion, and they’ll be here to talk about the film after it screens this Saturday.

Four Daughters

A unique and moving hybrid documentary, Kaouther Ben Hania’s Four Daughters explores generational trauma through a fascinating, therapeutic method. Ben Hania’s film is about Olfa Hamrouni, a Tunisian woman, and her four daughters. Two of them, Eya and Tayssir, appear in the film; the others left the family and joined ISIS. Four Daughters is comprised of a deft mix of interviews and stage reenactments: Actors portray Olfa’s two eldest daughters, Eya and Tayssir play themselves, and the actress Hend Sabri fills in for Olfa during scenes that may be traumatic. Sabri, like Ben Hania, is driven to blur these lines and get closer to the film’s subjects. Through this transparent but multifaceted process, Ben Hania unearths stunning moments of defiance, grace, humor, and vulnerability. If the film cannot explain why these two young women were driven to extremism, it has immense value as an exploration of womanhood, identity, and the ties and tensions between mothers and daughters.

The Delinquents

Some of the most inventive films of the past ten years or so have been coming out of Argentina. From the concise but elusive Shakespeare-inspired fare of Matías Piñeiro to epic, difficult-to-screen fare like this year’s Trenque Lauquen (250 minutes), by Laura Citarella, or Mariano Llinás’s massive 2018 opus La Flor (a worthwhile 808 minutes!), this crop of youngish filmmakers share a game troupe of performers and are preoccupied with exploring (and bursting) ideas about storytelling and narrative form. The Delinquents, which comes in at a positively breezy three hours, is perhaps the best and certainly the most acclaimed film yet to emerge from this loose collective. Rodrigo Moreno’s film, a 2023 Cannes Film Festival prizewinner which will be Argentina’s submission for the Best International Feature Oscar next year, sticks close to two characters: Morán (Daniel Elías), a bank teller fed up with his workaday life, and Román (Esteban Bigliardi), a co-worker who becomes wrapped up in Morán’s scheme to rob the bank.

The names of these twin protagonists are the first hint that The Delinquents is up to more than a simple heist fable (there are more anagrams where that came from), and indeed after its taut opening hour Moreno’s film sprawls into something a lot more expansive, asking why we buy into the mundanities of our lives and what we might do to find a taste of transcendence. It’s a funny, surprising, and wonderfully modest epic, certainly one of my favorites of this year.

PMA Films: Don Hertzfeldt's amazing new animated short, a document of contemporary Iran, and more "Talk of the Town" — Portland Museum of Art (3)

Mary and Molly (Free screening and panel discussion with filmmaker Donna Loring)

We are thrilled to welcome Penobscot Nation Tribal Elder Donna Loring for the premiere screening of Mary and Molly, a new animated short film adaptation of her 2016 play of the same name. The film concerns a young African-American woman living in Bangor who learns of her Penobscot heritage by way of a letter from her mother on her 21st birthday, and follows her as she explores her heritage. After the film, Loring will be joined by a number of guests for a group discussion. Mary and Molly artists and illustrators Ann Pollard Ranco and Shannon Sockalexis will appear along with Maulian (Dana) Bryant, Tribal Ambassador for the Penobscot Nation, and Maria Girouard, Executive Director of Wabanaki REACH. This is a free event, though registration is appreciated.

Maine Jewish Film Festival

PMA Films hosts the Maine Jewish Film Festival the first two weekends of November for the reboot of their vital and popular in-person festival from November 4-11. We have posted individual films screening in our auditorium on the PMA Films page, but you can visit their official site for a full schedule and ticketing information.

The Origin of Evil

Sébastien Marnier’s new thriller The Origin of Evil isn’t exactly a horror movie, but it does hit quite a few sweet spots for spooky season, offering devious twists, juicy performances, and an atmosphere that toggles effortlessly between menace and trashy fun. Laure Calamy, who regular filmgoers may have seen earlier this year in the great film Full Time, stars as Stéphane, a sardine factory worker who finds herself without a home and decides to track down Serge (Jacques Weber) her wealthy and estranged father. Serge and what remains of his icy family live in an ostentatious seaside mansion, which Stéphane infiltrates effortlessly, to the suspicion of others in the house. Succession vibes abound: Serge boozes and rampages, but is prone to fits of weakness; his wife, daughter, and maid appear eager to take advantage of him and wrest control of his fortune. Contrary to the more didactic likes of Triangle of Sadness and The Menu, The Origin of Evil is very much at home with its barbed wit and parasitic atmosphere, embracing the innate camp of its circ*mstances.

Remembering Every Night

A modest portrait of modern Japanese life that I was extremely taken with, Remembering Every Night is the second acclaimed film from the young director Yui Kiyohara. With a low-key sense of drift and wonder at the mundane, Kiyohara’s new film mostly follows three women on their own distinct, yet overlapping, trips through Tama New Town, a planned residential section of Tokyo. One woman (Hyodo Kumi), seeking work in middle age, encounters figures from her past; a second (Ohba Minami), who reads gas meters for a living, is obliged to assist a man with dementia in finding his way home; and a student visits a museum and has experiences with older members of the community. The sense of individuals reckoning with the idea of community and shared responsibility is explored with such sweep and delicacy that its cumulative impact sinks in gradually. A whimsical score doesn’t press matters, nor does the gorgeous cinematography of Yukiko Iioka, who shot Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, the masterful companion piece to that director’s Drive My Car. There are too few movies about life as it’s lived, and this one is extremely charming and distinctive.

We Are the Warriors (with filmmakers David Camlin and Megan Grumbling)

Winner of the Tourmaline Prize for Best Feature Made in Maine at this year’s Maine International Film Festival, David Camlin and Megan Grumbling’s We Are the Warriors addresses an issue many schools and sports teams have confronted in recent years. What does a mascot that invokes Native American culture represent, and does it honor or injure those from that culture? This debate became a conflagration after a Wells High School football game in 2017, as an Abegweit Mi’kmaq spectator from a visiting team observed the offensive ways in which students mocked and exploited Native culture. This incident led to widespread news coverage, but it also yielded a more measured debate about the past and future of the WHS mascot. Camlin and Grumbling’s film encompasses hundreds of years of Indigenous and colonial history as it also gives time and thought to the many nuanced sides of this discussion, and they’ll be here to talk about the film after it screens this Sunday.

Remembering Every Night

A modest portrait of modern Japanese life that I was extremely taken with, Remembering Every Night is the second acclaimed film from the young director Yui Kiyohara. With a low-key sense of drift and wonder at the mundane, Kiyohara’s new film mostly follows three women on their own distinct, yet overlapping, trips through Tama New Town, a planned residential section of Tokyo. One woman (Hyodo Kumi), seeking work in middle age, encounters figures from her past; a second (Ohba Minami), who reads gas meters for a living, is obliged to assist a man with dementia in finding his way home; and a student visits a museum and has experiences with older members of the community. The sense of individuals reckoning with the idea of community and shared responsibility is explored with such sweep and delicacy that its cumulative impact sinks in gradually. A whimsical score doesn’t press matters, nor does the gorgeous cinematography of Yukiko Iioka, who shot Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy, the masterful companion piece to that director’s Drive My Car. There are too few movies about life as it’s lived, and this one is extremely charming and distinctive.

Champlain Film Festival

On Friday, October 20, we’ll host the first two screenings of this year’s Champlain Film Festival, organized by Alliance Française du Maine. Both screenings are free, and you can find more information about the festival here.

Three Chaplains (Free screening with filmmakers David Washburn and Razi Jafri)

Before its November 6 premiere on PBS’s Independent Lens, we’re thrilled to offer a free sneak preview of the new documentary Three Chaplains, directed by Portland-based filmmaker David Washburn. The film examines the complex stories of three Muslim chaplains who are assist service members in living their faith, in spite of fraught domestic politics and the disapproval of peers and family members. Washburn, who has partnered with Muslim storytellers on documentary and short film work for a long time, will be joined by the film’s producer, Razi Jafri, for a panel discussion which will be moderated by Bowdoin College Visiting Assistant Professor of English, Zahir Janmohamed. Pious Ali, Portland City Councilor and founder of Portland Empowered, will introduce the screening.

Joan Baez I Am A Noise

A clear-eyed and introspective first-person account of a monumental career in music and activism, Joan Baez I Am A Noise approaches the legend’s life in the same way Baez describes her voice as a now-octogenarian performer. It’s lower and slower, more weathered but also somehow more revealing and honest. This documentary, directed by Miri Navasky, Maeve O’Boyle, Karen O’Connor, centers Baez’s exploration of her journey and legacy through prisms of memory and therapy, which are amplified through intimate archival material (Baez journaled and recorded letters to her family while on tour, and she also recorded some of her more recent therapy sessions). It’s an impressive and almost audacious balancing act, as Baez revisits complicated stories of abuse as a child and neglect as a mother while simultaneously discussing 20th century politics and her relationship with Bob Dylan. This is the kind of film where what goes unsaid can be as interesting as what is reflected upon, but the breadth and candor of Baez’s reflections are still quite remarkable.

Reciprocity Project Season One (Free screening)

A collection of short non-fiction films by Indigenous filmmakers, the first season of Reciprocity Project will be continuously in our auditorium from 11 am-5 pm on Indigenous People’s Day. In these films, Indigenous filmmakers interpreted encouraged how ‘reciprocity’ is embodied by their communities, with authenticity and freedom, resulting in narratively and artistically distinct films, interweaving additional themes of intergenerational realities, language preservation, land connection, and the joys and challenges of reviving traditions nearly lost to colonialism.

The Eternal Memory

An up-close look at a married couple confronting the horrors of Alzheimer’s, The Eternal Memory is as pure a document of love and devotion as you’re likely to see on film. The documentary, directed by Maite Alberdi (who made the Oscar-nominated The Mole Agent) follows Paulina Urrutia and Augusto Góngora, both prominent figures in Chile’s arts and political worlds. As the film follows them in the present—particularly through the pandemic, where Augusto’s isolation begins to exacerbate his disease—Alberdi threads in the couple’s memories of the terrifying years their nation spent under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. These two histories, of a couple fighting to know and remember one another and a nation at risk of forgetting its history, mingle in a quiet yet devastating fashion. Often serene or funny but occasionally heartbreaking, The Eternal Memory is an intimate look at epic lives.

The Red Turtle (Free Family Day screening)

A gorgeous animated fable told completely without dialogue, The Red Turtle recounts the milestones in the life of a human being through the story of a man shipwrecked on an tropical island inhabited by turtles, crabs, and birds. This is a free Family Day screening shown in conjunction with our “Passages” exhibit.

Scrapper

Equally sweet and salty, Charlotte Regan’s debut feature Scrapper is a vibrant and tender story of loss, creativity, and companionship. The young dynamo Lola Campbell stars as Charlotte, a wily 12 year-old living alone in a London apartment after the death of her mother. Stubborn and misunderstood, Charlotte gets by reselling stolen bikes and hanging out with her lone friend (Alin Uzun) until the sudden arrival of Jason (Harrison Dickinson), the father she’s never met. Charlotte is understandably reluctant to embrace an absentee parent, and Scrapper excels at acknowledging its characters flaws and misgivings while nudging them towards compromise and understanding. Dickinson, a bit of an underrated actor due to his heartthrob status (see Beach Rats or Triangle of Sadness), is quietly excellent here, helping to make familiar material feel both specific and heartrending.

Our Body

The best documentary and arguably the best film of the year so far, Claire Simon’s uncannily intimate epic Our Body examines women’s healthcare from a multiplicity of perspectives through a single setting, the gynecological ward of a public hospital in Paris. Simon’s 168-minute film mostly takes a Wisemanesque, observational approach, spending a few minutes with each patient as they receive consultations or undergo a procedure, and then allowing themes and motivating ideas to reveal themselves gradually. Though Our Body is sensitive to the fear and anxiety innate in illness, check-ups, or major life shifts, the film is oddly serene, a consequence of France’s subsidized health care system, the film’s broad definition of womanhood (we spend significant time with trans patients and those considering transition), and the camera’s unquestionable lack of judgment.

Our Body’s negotiation with intimacy comes through at every turn, from patients acknowledging the filmmakers at times to prolonged scenes of childbirth or invasive surgery, but eventually Simon herself becomes a character in the film. This startling development both brings home the impact of her project here, and it also quietly reveals the film’s sense of structure, which almost invisibly guides the viewer from youth through late life. Simultaneously mundane and sublime, Simon’s film is essential viewing.

Passages

Alongside Celine Song’s Past Lives, Ira Sachs’s Passages is the great conversation piece of the year in cinema so far, the kind of film that can spark and animate debate, philosophical discussion, maybe even a breakup. Starring a trio of the most exciting and alluring actors working today (Ben Whishaw, Franz Rogowski, Adèle Exarchopoulos), Passages considers impulsivity, lust, and loyalty through the eyes of Rogowski’s protagonist, the mercurial, Fassbinder-esque filmmaker Tomas. The artist throws his marriage (to Whishaw’s Martin) into disarray when he sleeps with a member of his crew (Exarchopoulos’s Agathe) after a wrap party. What ensues is—depending on the viewer, from what I’ve gleaned observing the discourse—trenchant and intimate or simply maddening. Tomas, clad in an array of bombastic sweaters and crop tops, is an almost willfully destructive force, acting on his whims without considering their consequences.

Sachs, a filmmaker who is equally at home with tender crowd-pleasers (Little Men) and darker, more intimate material (Keep the Lights On), takes a supremely non-judgmental approach to this thorny, difficult artist, an approach that allows the viewer to sort out where to place their allegiances. It’s clear, though, that his empathy extends to each point in this sort-of love triangle, and Passages works as well as it does because it allows you to see yourself in all of its characters.

Kokomo City

A raw and vibrant documentary shot in shimmering black and white and full to bursting with personality, surprise, and wisdom, D. Smith’s Kokomo City is an intimate look at the lives of Black transgender sex workers in Atlanta and New York City. Smith, whose own life story is remarkable (she left her home after coming out as a teen, later purchased a one-way ticket to New York City, and wound up producing music for some of the industry’s biggest stars before transitioning and being ostracized from the business), has an unwavering commitment to authenticity. Along with her four main protagonists (Daniella Carter, Liyah Mitchell, Dominique Silver, and Koko Da Doll, who was murdered earlier this year), Smith explores both the pragmatics and the danger of the profession. What’s more, Kokomo City dwells frankly on the alienation Black transgender women encounter from the broader Black community, a state of affairs touched upon by some of their clients, a number of whom were interviewed for the documentary.

Exhibition on Screen: Tokyo Stories

The ever-popular “Exhibition on Screen” series returns to PMA Films with a documentary based on a major exhibition at the Ashmolean in Oxford. Tokyo Stories spans 400 years of incredibly dynamic art – ranging from the delicate woodblock prints of Hokusai and Hiroshige, to Pop Art posters, contemporary photography, Manga, film, and brand-new artworks that were created on the streets.

The exhibition was a smash-hit five-star success and brought a younger and more diverse audience to the museum. The film uses the exhibition as a launchpad to travel to Tokyo itself, and explore the art and artists of the city more fully.

A beautifully illustrated and richly detailed film, looking at a city which has undergone constant destruction and renewal over its 400-year history, resulting in one of the most vibrant and interesting cities on the planet…

Anonymous Sister (Presented with Recovery in Maine and featuring filmmaker Jamie Boyle)

In partnership with Points North’s Recovery in Maine program, we’re honored to host filmmaker Jamie Boyle and her singular new documentary, Anonymous Sister. Comprised of a combination of interviews and home movie footage largely shot by Boyle herself, the film is a uniquely intimate and immersive look at the toll the opioid epidemic on one American family. Before the film, we’ll screen the Recovery in Maine short “Androscoggin County,” and the program will conclude with discussion between Boyle, Jeremy Hiltz of Recovery Connections of Maine, and Courtney Gary-Allen from the Maine Recovery Advocacy Project. Members of local harm reduction groups will be on site with resources and literature as well.

Amanda

A barbed and very funny feature debut by the Italian writer-director Carolina Cavalli, Amanda stars Benedetta Porcaroli as the title character, an aimless and spoiled twentysomething attempting to, for the first time, make friends and develop a social life. For the precious and endlessly argumentative Amanda, who only socializes with her childhood nanny, this is easier said than done. Porcaroli’s finely calibrated performance sets Amanda up as a uniquely diffident personality, but it’s always clear there is some fear and vulnerability beneath her hilariously brittle surface. Visually distinctive (Cavalli uses a striking array of architectural styles to define individual characters) and sharply written, this one is a real treat.

John and Francis Ford Film Festival

This Saturday and Sunday, we’re proud to team up with Maine Irish Heritage Center and the John and Francis Ford Film Festival, playing host to the festival’s symposium. Saturday’s events will kick off at noon with a keynote address by Ford biographer Joseph McBride, followed by a screening of his final (and, some say, greatest) film, 1966’s 7 Women, and a panel discussion with a group of visiting scholars about Ford’s relevance to and meaning in modern society. In the afternoon, we’re honored to host the world premiere screening of the silent film The Craving, directed by Francis Ford and recently restored from 35mm negatives. Kathy Fuller-Seeley and Michael Ford will offer further context on Francis’s life and career after that 3 pm screening.

On Sunday, we’ll begin with a screening of one of Ford’s most under-recognized masterpieces, My Darling Clementine (his take on the legend of Wyatt Earp), and conclude the day with the local premiere of a new documentary, The Taking. Director Alexandre O. Philippe has previously made striking visual essays about the shower scene in Psycho, and here he uses his interest in close reading to consider the representation of Monument Valley in cinema history (and, of course, in John Ford’s work), and how the iconography of the Western as a genre is an affront to indigenous histories. Between these two films, a panel of scholars will dig into the subject matter of The Taking and Ford’s prodigious use of the iconography of Monument Valley. (Ticketholders for either Sunday screening are welcome to attend the 2 pm panel discussion.)

Behind the Strings

When Mao’s Cultural Revolution ended, China’s door cracked open. Four young, classical musicians seized the opportunity to flee to the West as classical music was banned. The Shanghai Quartet began a lifetime adventure – studying with great masters, attending Juilliard, and performing at major music festivals and best classical music venues like Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and The Kennedy Center. Behind the Stringsshowcases their lives, how they got to the top and the price they pay. And, why China keeps inviting them back to perform their once forbidden music.

Return to Oz (Free screening in Congress Square Park)

Wrapping up our summer outdoor film series, “System Reboot” (presented with SPACE Gallery and Friends of Congress Square Park), Return to Oz is an emo kid cult classic from 1985 directed by Walter Murch, the legendary editor of the likes of The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, and The Talented Mr. Ripley as well as a collaborator on The Godfather trilogy. A dark counterpart to 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, Return to Oz is quite faithfully based on the second and third books in Frank L. Baum’s Oz series. Like the other films in this series, Return to Oz ran overbudget and was a troubled production (Murch was briefly fired until George Lucas intervened), but the film’s unquestionable style and dark themes have yielded a small army of admirers, including (fittingly) the writer Neil Gaiman.

CatVideoFest 2023

Perhaps the closest thing PMA Films has to a Barbenheimer phenomenon, the latest edition of CatVideoFest returns this weekend with the latest and greatest in home recordings of feline antics. Every year, we donate 10% of the revenue from these screenings to our friends at Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland, and some volunteers with the organization will be in attendance outside our auditorium at select screenings, so do say hello and learn how you can help them continue to thrive.

Earth Mama

A critical darling at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Earth Mama is an assured and deeply empathetic debut from filmmaker Savanah Leaf. Tia Nomore stars as Gia, a single mother with two children in the foster care system and another child on the way. In part, Leaf’s film is oriented around process and the innate hardships of being poor in America: in order to regain custody of her children, Gia is required to attend classes and see a therapist, but these demands prevent her from working full-time, a destructive loop that fundamentally impacts her health and well-being. Earth Mama lays this out clearly but without a hint of didacticism, and it treats Gia, a protagonist who makes a few destructive decisions, with a similar dignity and sensitivity. Set and shot in the Bay Area, Leaf’s film has a casually authoritative sense of place and an authenticity that sidesteps most of the familiar tropes of the debut indie feature. It’s a special film.

“Elizabeth Colomba Selects”: Gosford Park

Concluding a set of films by Elizabeth Colomba, I’m really looking forward to taking another look at Robert Altman’s late masterpiece Gosford Park, from 2001. An upstairs/downstairs murder mystery that takes its cues from The Rules of the Game and whose influence is clearly felt in Rian Johnson’s Knives Out films, Gosford Park is a tremendously effective confluence of stylistic impulses, one where Altman’s penchant for huge casts and overlapping dialogue functions seamlessly with the themes and content of Julian Fellowes’s exquisitely written and structured screenplay.

Afire

One of my absolute favorite working filmmakers, Christian Petzold has recently transitioned from a trilogy of films (Barbara, Phoenix, the incredible Transit) that situate melodramas within the circ*mstances of World War II toward warmer, modern considerations of love, work, and ego. Afire is a perfect summer film, particularly in 2023, where Petzold has made a comedy of manners that is set, with productive unease, in a seaside town distantly threatened by wildfires. Thomas Schubert stars as Leon, a writer finishing his latest novel on a working vacation with his friend, Felix (Langston Uibel). Their intentions are thwarted when it turns out Leon’s family home has been rented to Nadja (Petzold regular Paula Beer). Leon, a brittle creation I find horribly relatable, uses Nadja’s presence and any form of interruption as an excuse to brood and avoid his writing project in a manner that is simultaneously funny, annoying, relatable, and cringeworthy. As usual, Petzold builds out his characters with a remarkable acuity and dramatic efficiency. Afire is ostensibly a film about clashing personalities and culture, but it is also rather subtly a film about why we still behave the way we do in the face of cataclysmic environmental and societal problems.

“Elizabeth Colomba Selects”: The Wiz

Next in our series of films chosen by Elizabeth Colomba to accompany her exhibit, “Mythologies,” 1978’s The Wiz came together with a collection of talent that seems absolutely incredible in retrospect. The legendary Diana Ross practically willed the film, an adaptation of a then-recent Broadway musical, into existence, though her casting as a young teacher caused the film’s initial director to leave the project in favor of the reliable but musically untested Sidney Lumet. An advocate for the then-faddish est movement, Ross’s influence persuaded a young writer named Joel Schumacher to try the therapy, and its tenets bled into the film. Quincy Jones, The Wiz’s music supervisor (and a piano player in the film), was dubious of the casting of a young Michael Jackson, but his presence, along with that of Nipsey Russell, Lena Horne, Mabel King, and Richard Pryor, have helped what was once a critical and box office flop become an immensely popular and enduring film, particularly with Black audiences. This is the sort of epic production, immensely tactile and labored over in every aspect, that is unlikely to be replicated by Hollywood anytime soon.

Umberto Eco: A Library of the World

Davide Ferrario’s new documentary about the late Italian author and semiotician and his library began as, of all things, a video installation created for the Venice Art Biennale. Extraneous footage from Ferrario’s shoot, depicting Eco offering the filmmaker a tour of his library, went viral after Eco’s death in 2016. With the involvement of Eco’s family, the concept for Umberto Eco: A Library of the World was born. A fitting tribute to the writer, the film considers Eco’s beautiful library and book collection as both a statement on the author and on his belief in knowledge and information as living, mutable things that evolve along with the whims of history. Ferrario, a novelist as well as a filmmaker, also has actors recite excerpts from Eco’s voluminous essays on the written word to bring further life to his great love.

“System Reboot”: Super Mario Bros. (Free screening in Congress Square Park)

A memorable critical and box office flop of the 1990s now rather fondly remembered as a curio of its era, Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel’s 1993 take on the Super Mario Bros. franchise continues a free program we’re co-presenting with SPACE Gallery and Friends of Congress Square park this summer. The series, “System Reboot,” considers some of the highways and byways of film franchises derived from other sources that persist to this day. While shows like HBO’s The Last of Us and the recent The Super Mario Bros. Movie suggest we may have entered an era where video games can further stoke the flames of Hollywood’s desire for replicable intellectual property, the 1993 film hearkens back to the perhaps lovably clunky origins of this strain of adaptation.

“Elizabeth Colomba Selects”: Howard’s End

Another choice selection from Elizabeth Colomba is James Ivory’s justly beloved adaptation of E.M. Forster’s novel Howard’s End, which alongside Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence is perhaps the great statement on the onset of 20th century capitalism and modernism. I did not dabble in Merchant-Ivory’s prestigious 1980s and 1990s productions as a youngster, and have only caught a couple in the meantime, so I was extremely pleasantly surprised that their Howard’s End skirted most every cliché of the stodgy literary adaptation I’d absorbed in my head over the years. Thanks in large part to tremendous performances by Emma Thompson and a young Helena Bonham Carter, Ivory’s film positively bristles with life and curiosity as it traces an eventful period in the lives of the Schlegel family, whose interactions with the new-money, real estate-hoarding Wilcoxes enrich and morally compromise their comfortable but more modest lives.

The Mother and the whor*

Continuing a string of flat-out masterpieces, I am thrilled to offer a couple of screenings of a film rarely screened in the United States until now. Jean Eustache’s The Mother and the whor*, from 1973, was long prevented from being released on physical media by Eustache’s estate, but his titanic relationship drama has now been restored in 4k and will see a home release in the coming months. I think this is one of the greatest films ever made. It is a bold and diffident reaction to the attitude and politics of the films of the French New Wave, using Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) as an autobiographical analog for Eustache. Léaud’s Alexandre is the model of what is today considered a toxic man: he is counterintuitive, relentlessly opinionated, and determined to win every argument, of which there are a great many in this 220-minute epic, which explores its central love triangle to a thrilling point of exhaustion. Alexandre surrounds himself with women who are more progressive and sensitive than he is, one of many ways in which Eustache’s film reveals its conservative but fraught and deeply self-immolating concerns. In its personal and cultural politics, The Mother and the whor* is a startling reaction to the romance and idealism of the New Wave and its leftist filmmakers, but Eustache’s discomfiting concerns remain both striking and relevant today. There’s lots of great recent writing about this restoration, but I’ll point you to Richard Brody’s trenchant piece at the New Yorker as a good place to start.

“Elizabeth Colomba Selects”: The Leopard

Each Saturday for the remainder of July, we’ll be featuring a film hand-picked by Elizabeth Colomba to accompany her wonderful show, “Mythologies.” Every film in this series is a banger, but I’m especially pleased to begin with Luchino Visconti’s sumptuous, luxurious portrait of an aristocratic regime losing its grip on the power and cultural consciousness of 19th-century Italy. The Leopard was a triumph in its time, winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1963, but Visconti has maintained a surprisingly strong foothold in film culture, with a retrospective that did blockbuster numbers at Lincoln Center in recent years. I think this is because it can be fairly argued that the director’s films benefit from the theatrical environment like few others, juxtaposing opulence and futility with unmatched grandeur. (If you want to continue your Visconti studies, I have recently been blown away by both 1969’s The Damned, about a family of munitions manufacturers confronting the rise of Nazism, and 1973’s Ludwig, starring the late Helmut Berger as an aesthete ruler of Bavaria in the mid-1800s.)

The Night of the 12th

Winner of a whopping 7 trophies at this year’s César Awards (France’s national film awards), Dominik Moll’s downbeat drama begins like a standard crime procedural before its tentacles spread to some unexpected places. After a young woman is gruesomely murdered on her walk home from a night with friends, a group of Grenoble police investigators pounce on the case’s many leads and red herrings. In a manner somewhat akin to David Fincher’s Zodiac, the passage of time weighs heavily on the investigation, yielding fresh theories and a more profound sense of hopelessness and exhaustion. The Night of the 12th lacks the grandeur of Zodiac and another similar masterpiece, Bong Joon-Ho’s Memories of Murder, but the earthy nature of Moll’s film gradually gets its claws in you by persistently examining the ways in which age, masculinity, and other forms of bias can impede criminal proceedings. Moll explores these issues with a really impressive subtlety, allowing changes in the police department over time to do much of the thematic heavy lifting.

“System Reboot”: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) (Free screening in Congress Square Park)

After getting washed out last months, our outdoor summer film series “System Reboot” reboots itself on Wednesday. (Looks like a nice day!) The series, programmed with our friends at SPACE Gallery and Friends of Congress Square Park, examines early franchise films from the 1980s and 1990s that continue to be reimagined by an industry increasingly focused on intellectual property. Steve Barron’s 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is best remembered for its iconic turtle costumes, created by the Jim Henson Creature Shop and enhanced with animatronic facial muscles, a nifty form of puppetry that’s difficult to imagine being utilized in 2023. Like most of the new IP of its day, Barron’s film was met with a mix of critical vitriol and indifference, but it was an immediate sensation with young audiences, leading to a trilogy of ‘90s films and a few recent reboots of the franchise. An animated installment written by Seth Rogen (among others) will hit theaters in August.

Close to Vermeer

After the remarkable turnout for our screenings of the “Exhibition on Screen” documentary about the recent Vermeer exhibit at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, I couldn’t fairly resist offering you a quite different glimpse into the same show. Close to Vermeer offers a behind the scenes look at the work that goes into pulling off such a major show, sticking with the Rijksmuseum’s curators and other workers as they travel the world negotiating the terms of sharing all of these paintings at one site. More dramatically, director Suzanne Raes gets into the subjectivity of authentication, as conservators and experts debate the authorship of a number of the artist’s paintings. It’s a compelling and intimate look at a blockbuster exhibit.

End of the Century (Free screening)

Wrapping up a weekend of free screenings marking the end of PRIDE month, I am absolutely thrilled to show one of my favorite films of the past five years. Sexy, funny, beautifully constructed, and sneakily profound, Lucio Castro’s End of the Century is a slight stunner that I tend to describe as “a lightly metaphysical gay Before Sunrise,” about an Argentine poet and a Berlin-based Spaniard who eventually meet after a series of missed connections in Barcelona. The film’s first act traces their hookup in a manner that’s simultaneously mundane and filled with lust and longing, and from here Castro gently sends these two men through time in a manner I’m loathe to spoil. Suffice it to say that in this stunningly assured debut film, Castro is investigating the idea of fate in a manner that’s at once playful and a bit of a head trip. End of the Century also boasts one of the all-time great jump scares, revealing its most pivotal twist with an unexpected burst of noise. Released to great reviews in 2019, End of the Century never traveled too far and as far as I’m aware it’s never been available to subscribers of any major screening service, which in the present day might as well condemn a film to obscurity. It deserves to join the queer canon.

The Queen (Free screening)

A landmark film that predates the Stonewall rebellion and establishes an observational, process-based documentary rhythm that many associate with Frederick Wiseman, Frank Simon’s documentary The Queen was released to polite notices in 1968 (the author and then-film critic Renata Adler raved about it in the New York Times) and then broadly forgotten until about a decade ago, when successful repertory screenings paved the way to Kino Lorber’s recent restoration of the film. Shot a generation before Jennie Livingston’s Paris is Burning, The Queen is a surprising document of a moment where drag performances were technically criminal acts yet seemingly uncontroversial. The show depicted here is a benefit held in a Manhattan hotel, but the lack of glitz in its setting suits Simon’s purposes (building rich characters through practical scenes) perfectly.

Light Attaching to a Girl (with filmmaker Laina Barakat)

New Hampshire-based filmmaker Laina Barakat joins us this Friday to wrap up a tour of her striking and sensitive medium-length coming of age film, Light Attaching to a Girl. Filmed with non-actors and essentially an outline of a script, allowing the actors to add their own feelings and experience to the process, the film is keenly attuned to the suffocations of small-town life and the weight of the decision to strike out on one’s own. Barakat’s own sister, Clare, gives a lovely lead performance in the film, shining once her character sets out to Iceland to discover how she interacts with the wider world.

The Watermelon Woman (Free screening)

Playing in repertory with Losing Ground throughout the weekend is The Watermelon Woman, Cheryl Dunye’s groundbreaking, spry, and intellectually curious mock documentary. As a version of herself, Dunye portrays a video store clerk and spiring filmmaker working on a documentary about the titular Watermelon Woman, an actress credited as such in early Hollywood films, where she typically played so-called “mammy” roles. (The actress is fictitious, but Dunye so effectively frames the actress in a historical and academic reality that you wouldn’t know it to watch the film.) Simultaneously, Dunye gets involved with a white customer frequenting her video store. The Watermelon Woman oscillates beautifully between moments of romance and humor and a more earnest examination of historical oppression, resulting in a film that sometimes exists on the wavelength of 1990s slacker comedies but has the rigor and boldness of other gems from the New Queer Cinema.

Losing Ground (Free screening)

In commemoration of Juneteenth, we’re hosting the second installment of an annual film series, “Connection and Collaboration.” Programmed in partnership with Charles Nero, Benjamin E. Mays ’20 Distinguished Professor of Rhetoric, Film and Screen Studies and Africana at Bates College, films in this series examine and celebrate the ways African Americans collaborate across their differences for their survival. 1982’s Losing Ground, one of just two films by the late, celebrated poet, playwright, and activist Kathleen Collins, explores the tensions between an ambitious professor of philosophy (Seret Scott) and her more sybaritic artist husband, played by Bill Gunn (director of Ganja & Hess and the great recent rediscovery Personal Problems). I last saw Losing Ground in the first wave of its recent canonization as a film print toured repertory houses around 2016, and remain struck by its striking editing rhythms and singular exploration of personal pleasure and partnership. We’ll be showing Kino Lorber’s recent restoration of the film.

Maine Mayhem Film Festival

After a sold-out premiere at the Nickelodeon last month, we’re happy to bring the Maine Mayhem Film Festival to PMA Films for a free encore presentation. This is an annual showcase of short films (both animated and not) by second year students in Southern Maine Community College’s Communications and New Media program. Some of this year’s filmmakers will be in attendance for the program, and we’ll have a Q&A with them after we screen the program, which will run for two hours.

Chile ‘76

A tense political thriller about a well-heeled, accidental revolutionary, Chile ‘76 is an intimate and striking period piece. Aline Kuppenheim stars as Carmen, the wife of a hospital director on a prolonged winter vacation on the Chilean coast. While monitoring the renovation of her home and taking time outs to host her grandchildren and perform service for her church, Carmen finds herself acquainted with a young leftist in need, engaging in small gestures of empathy and charity that can be interpreted as risky political acts. With her debut directorial feature, Manuel Martelli acquits herself beautifully. Aesthetically, the filmmaker has a real way with visual motifs and quietly symbolic colors, costumes, and settings. It’s one of the more fully realized debuts I’ve seen in quite some time.

The Eight Mountains

A film of epic sweep and panoramic vistas, Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeesch’s The Eight Mountains is the rare work that focuses its attention on the oscillations of a friendship across the decades. For a medium built around conflict and juxtaposition, friendship has always felt to me like one of the most underexplored subjects in cinema, and it’s extremely gratifying to see it conveyed with the realism and complexity van Groeningen and Vandermeesch deploy here. The Eight Mountains spans four decades, beginning in the childhood of Pietro and Bruno, portrayed as children by Lupo Barbiero and Cristiano Sassella and as adults by Luca Marinelli and Alessandro Borghi. At first, the two drum up a companionship wrought by proximity, as Pietro spends his summers in a dazzling small town in the Italian Alps. In adulthood, the film examines the two at varying crossroads, in every instance trying to recapture the freedom they felt as children. Based on a book of the same name by Paolo Cognetti, The Eight Mountains is highly attuned to the obligations, responsibilities, and emotional ups and downs that invisibly carve the trajectory of our most important relationships. Both Borghi (a big-hearted force of nature) and Marinelli (a cerebral, searching presence delivering another great performance after his titanic work in 2020’s Martin Eden) are entirely in tune with their characters; you get the sense that they both always know what is unsaid between them, and this lends the film a gentle but considerable tension. If the massive, screen-swallowing landscapes of The Eight Mountains are enough to recommend the film, its unexpectedly trenchant examination of masculinity is a welcome bonus.

PMA Films: Don Hertzfeldt's amazing new animated short, a document of contemporary Iran, and more "Talk of the Town" — Portland Museum of Art (4)

Honest Vision: A Portrait of Todd Webb (with Director Huey)

This award-winning documentary chronicles the life and career of Todd Webb (1905-2000), one of America’s important 20th century photographers. The photographer’s life is told through the wit and stories of Webb himself. Featured are Webb’s elegant black and white photographs of Paris and New York in the 1940s and 1950s, and his photographs of the American West taken from 1955-65 when he retraced the Gold Rush Trails by foot, by bicycle, and by motor scooter. Honest Vision also is the love story of Todd and Lucille Webb. An inseparable team, the interviews with Lucille Webb give an insight to the influence a partner has on the creative life of an artist.

Showing Up

The most warmly reviewed film of the year so far, Showing Up is another sneakily profound comedy of manners and power from Kelly Reichardt, who by this point is indisputably one of the great American filmmakers. Reichardt’s staggeringly consistent body of work can vary greatly in tone, from the Bressonian neorealism of 2008’s Wendy and Lucy to 2020’s terrific First Cow, a bromance and entrepreneurial fable set in the expanding and colonizing American west. Showing Up, by contrast, feels very close to home for Reichardt, setting its gaze on an insular community of Portland, Oregon artmakers, particularly one who simultaneously spurns attention and seems to feel like she’s not getting her due. Michelle Williams, Reichardt’s most esteemed on-screen collaborator, walks a delicate balance here. Her Lizzy is persnickety, relatable, humble, and genuinely aggrieved as she hustles to finish pieces for an upcoming gallery show. She is particularly taxed by her landlord Jo (Hong Chau), a more successful artist obliviously holding Lizzy’s sanity hostage by way of a string of minor impositions and Lizzy’s long-busted water heater. This conflict, familiar and thus hugely potent, embodies the tangle of ideas about creativity, personal boundaries, and empathy that sprout up elsewhere in Showing Up, as the film expands its purview to an art school, Lizzy’s family, and her climactic opening party. Reichardt’s film is proof positive that art achieves the universal when it dwells on details and psychological complexity.

PMA Films: Don Hertzfeldt's amazing new animated short, a document of contemporary Iran, and more "Talk of the Town" — Portland Museum of Art (5)

“Inside/Outside”: Short Films by Paulin Soumanou Vieyra

A trailblazer of sub-Saharan African cinema, Vieyra’s interest in cinema, history, and lived experience of Africans is in abundant display in this selection of his short films. Born in Benin and later based in Senegal, Vieyra was one of the first Black Africans to direct a film, Africa on the Seine, a moving and thoughtful documentary about young Africans studying in Paris. His later works included Lamb, a revelatory and stirring study of beachside Senegalese wrestling, and Behind the Scenes: The Making of “Ceddo,” a firsthand document from the set of Ousmane Sembène’s revolutionary classic. In addition to his filmmaking, Vieyra was founder of the Fédération Panafricaine des Cinéastes and a crucial mentor to key filmmaking figures like Sembène, Djibril Diop Mambéty, and Ababacar Samb-Makharam.

Hilma

Directed by Lasse Hallström (My Life as a Dog, The Cider House Rules), Hilma is a timely biopic of one of the most important artistic rediscoveries of the past decade. Hilmaexplores af Klint’s spiritualism, her unconventional love life, and the impetus behind her work — from the writings of Rudolph Steiner to the strong influence of the Theosophic Movement, and her belief in its mystical philosophy — in a portrait of a woman well ahead of her time.

“Inside/Outside”: Black Girl + Jojolo

Two of the highlights of our ongoing series “Inside/Outside,” a set of films in dialogue with our current exhibit, “Outside the Frame: Todd Webb in Africa,” Jojolo and Black Girl offer contrasting views of a woman’s relocation to France: the former is an effervescent and stylish short, while the latter is a concise and totemic work of anti-colonial filmmaking by one of Africa’s greatest filmmakers, Ousmane Sembène.

No One Told Me (with director Zulilah Merry)

An intimate and intuitively sensitive look at the postpartum experience, Zulilah Merry’s hour-long documentary follows one couple through the ups and downs of their experience as new parents. We are honored to welcome the filmmaker for a Mother’s Day weekend screening of her film, which will culminate in a panel discussion with local caregivers.

R.M.N.

Perhaps the greatest filmmaker of the so-called “Romanian New Wave” that took the film world by storm around the release of 2007’s stark and masterful abortion drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Cristian Mungiu has continued to explore social issues that speak both to his home country and a broader, globalizing world. R.M.N., a brilliantly orchestrated and pointedly ambiguous treatise about ethnicity and immigration in an unsparing modern economy, is Mungiu’s most urgent and fraught statement to date. The film establishes a constellation of seemingly individual dramas in its first hour, some involving Matthias (Marin Grigore), a factory worker who leaves a job in Germany to return home to his family. Others are related to this Transylvanian village’s local bakery, which is at once the only reliable source of employment in the village and a business that (beholden to industry cost standards) can only afford to pay its workers minimum wage. Tensions simmer with the arrival of a pair of workers from Sri Lanka, and come to a stunning boil in the film’s final hour, which is highlighted by a stunning 18-minute single-take town meeting and one of the best final scenes of a movie in recent memory.

PMA Films: Don Hertzfeldt's amazing new animated short, a document of contemporary Iran, and more "Talk of the Town" — Portland Museum of Art (6)

“Inside/Outside”: First World Festival of Negro Arts + African Rhythmus

I spent a good chunk of February watching a set of films supplied to me by the team at African Film Festival, Inc. in order to plan a film series that reflected on the themes of our ongoing exhibition, “Outside the Frame: Todd Webb in Africa.” I’m excited to begin this series, titled “Inside/Outside,” with two rare medium-length documentaries that observe 1966’s First World Festival of African Art from very different perspectives. The first, an official portrait of the festival directed by the massively important American independent filmmaker William Greaves (Nationtime, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One), is an unfettered reverie, while African Rhythmus can’t help but come off as a work by a Soviet Union hoping to increase its cultural and geopolitical influence on a new continent in the midst of dramatic change. The two films stand in striking, fascinating contrast while ostensibly documenting the same event.

Return to Seoul

One of my favorite films of the young year, Return to Seoul is a Korean-set drama that couldn’t be much different from Walk Up. Stylish, tumultuous, and altogether riveting, the film (directed by the Cambodian-French filmmaker Davy Chou) is shaped around an incredible, dynamic performance by Park Ji-Min. She plays Freddie, a French woman born in South Korea but adopted early in life. Freddie travels to Seoul to visit friends, but one of the tantalizing tricks of Chou’s film is how he and Park cultivate an ambiguity about Freddie’s attitude and motives at any given moment. Her journey is wholly unpredictable, perhaps because she has arrived in Seoul without a plan, but maybe because she has very concrete intentions and isn’t sure if she wants to follow through with them. Freddie remains a mystery for much of the film—she is, at various times, magnetic, diffident, and vulnerable—but she’s never anything less than mesmerizing.

The closer we get to Freddie, the more Chou challenges the viewer to question their assumptions. Return to Seoul is a film that isn’t reluctant to turn in surprising directions, and these decisions do a great deal to illuminate its protagonist, whose sense of dislocation turns out to be the movie’s primary concern.

Exhibition on Screen: Vermeer: The Greatest Exhibition

An audience favorite, the stalwart Exhibition on Screen series returns with a comprehensive portrait of the blockbuster survey of the Dutch Baroque painter, currently on view at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. With loans from across the world, this major retrospective will bring together Vermeer’s most famous masterpieces includingGirl with a Pearl Earring, The Geographer, The Milkmaid, The Little Street, Lady Writing a Letter with her Maid,andWoman Holding a Balance.

This new Exhibition on Screen film invites audiences to a private view of the exhibition, accompanied by the director of the Rijksmuseum and the curators of the show. A truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! As well as bringing Vermeer’s works together, both the Rijksmuseum and the Mauritshuis in the Hague have conducted research into Vermeer’s artistry, his artistic choices and motivations for his compositions, as well as the creative process behind his paintings.

Walk Up

The prolific Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo is back with his fourth (!) film released stateside in the past two years. Distinct from last year’s lovely The Novelist’s Film, Walk Up marks a return to the director’s quietly playful mode of structural experimentation. Here, the great Kwon Hae-hyo plays a director who takes his now working-age daughter (Park Mi-so), an aspiring interior designer, to visit the home of an old friend (Lee Hye-young, terrific) who is a great success in the industry. They tour the building (which contains multiple apartments and a restaurant) and sit down for a long and increasingly boozy conversation that’s captured in one remarkable take. This is something of a calling card for Hong, but what transpires afterward is quite new, as the progression to new areas of the building create tectonic shifts in the relationships between Walk Up’s four major characters.

One Fine Morning

Mia Hansen-Løve, the great French director whose last film, Bergman Island, screened here in 2021, makes drama from the stuff of life and the mind. Few directors pay such keen attention to the bookshelves of their characters, and fewer still are interested in how people live their interests and values. Hansen-Løve has explored this territory through the eyes of young lovers (2011’s Goodbye, First Love), a professor engaging with her younger and more radical students (2016’s Things to Come), and 2014’s remarkable Eden, a pseudo-epic about an unsuccessful DJ’s experience riding the coattails of the ascent of electronic music.

In One Fine Morning, Hansen-Løve explores aging through a few different lenses. Sandra (Léa Seydoux, luxuriating in an uncharacteristically modest role) is a translator and single mother nearing middle age who has no time for dating. Her father (Pascal Greggory), is a retired professor suffering from a rapidly advancing neurodegenerative illness. Her daughter (Camille Leban Martins) is developing her own opinions, and occupies the only bedroom in their handsome but tiny apartment. And an old friend, Clément (Melvil Poupaud), reappears in her life, willing to risk his marriage for Sandra. Hansen-Løve navigates these dilemmas, all of which feel at once prosaic and weighty, with a dramaturgical and intellectual rigor that is characteristically elegant and tinged with autobiographical weight.

Turn Every Page: The Adventures of Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Robert Caro (Power Broker, The Years of Lyndon Johnson) and legendary editor Robert Gottlieb, have worked and fought together for 50 years, forging one of publishing’s most iconic and productive partnerships. Caro’s The Power Broker, edited by Gottlieb continues to be a bestseller after 48 years. Now 87, Caro is working to complete the fifth and final volume of his masterwork, The Years of Lyndon Johnson; Gottlieb, 91, waits to edit it. The task of finishing their life’s work looms before them.

Directed by Gottlieb’s daughter, Lizzie Gottlieb, Turn Every Page explores their remarkable creative collaboration, including the behind-the-scenes drama of the making of Caro’s The Power Broker and the LBJ series. With humor and insight, this unique double portrait reveals the work habits, peculiarities and professional joys of these two ferocious intellects. It arrives at the culmination of a journey that has consumed both their lives and impacted generations of politicians, activists, writers and readers, and furthered our understanding of power and democracy.

Guerilla Opera’s I Give You My Home

For 2023’s Art in Bloom, we’re thrilled to present a premiere screening run of I Give You My Home, a 37-minute opera film based on the life of Rachel Standish Nichols. Guerilla Opera, the enterprising Boston opera company, will be on site with a merch table at most screenings, and select screenings will feature conversations with composer Beth Wiemann. Linda Marshall of the Nichols House Museum will join Wiemann for an event on Friday, March 31 at 6 pm.

Guerilla Opera presents I Give You My Home, a world premiere opera film inspired by the Nichols House Museum in Boston and the life of Rose Standish Nichols (1872–1960). The opera explores the life of the Bostonian women’s peace party and suffrage activist, professional landscape architect, and published author and brings to light efforts to affect change.

Her efforts are important and striking for their persistence in spite of the barriers, and she inspires future generations to pursue their unique passions and make an impact on their own terms.

I Give You My Home features music and original libretto by local composer Beth Wiemann and is brought to life by the acclaimed filmmaker, Cara Consilvio.

My Name Is Andrea (with Maine Jewish Film Festival and Through These Doors)

My Name Is Andrea is a hybrid feature documentary about one of the most controversial figures of the 20th century. Andrea Dworkin offered a revolutionary analysis of male supremacy with a singular urgency and iconoclastic flair. Decades before #MeToo, Dworkin called out the pervasiveness of sexism and rape culture, and the ways it impacts every woman’s daily life. Shaped by the values of justice and equality learned in the civil rights movement, the film focuses on key moments from the life of this fearless fighter who demanded that women be seen as fully human. The film features performances by Ashley Judd, Soko, Amandla Stenberg, Andrea Riseborough, and Christine Lahti, woven in with rare, electrifying archival footage of Dworkin.

We are presenting this film in partnership with Maine Jewish Film Festival, who will conclude the film with a conversation with Rebecca Hobbs, Executive Director of Through These Doors, a domestic violence resource center in Cumberland County.

Full Time

Éric Gravel’s riveting and nerve-shredding drama Full Time is one of my early favorites of 2023. Propelled by an unvarnished and exquisite lead performance by Laure Calamy (Call My Agent!) and some truly muscular filmmaking – this is practically the Uncut Gems of films about French transit strikes – Gravel’s film is well-timed for yet another moment of widespread protests and disruptions in French society. Calamy plays Julie, a single mother working well outside of Parisian metropolitan borders in order to keep a supervisory position in housekeeping at a five-star hotel in the city. As travel delays into and out of Paris become more extreme, and as Julie searches for work more in line with her credentials, her position becomes increasingly untenable. It remains too rare for films to address the conditions of labor in the service industry, and Gravel keenly expresses this lifestyle in the form of a thriller. The impossible, contradictory demands Julie navigates (managing money, childcare, and co-workers) make this genre framing feel utterly appropriate. It’s a terrific film.

Close

We are officially wrapping up Oscar season here at PMA Films, and doing so in rather devastating fashion with Lukas Dhont’s widely acclaimed Belgian coming-of-age story Close, winner of the Grand Jury Prize (second place) at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and a nominee for Best International Feature at the Academy Awards. Eden Dambrine and Gustav de Waele, two extraordinarily present young actors, star as thirteen year-old Léo and Rémi, inseparable best friends who have just begun high school. Their uncommonly intimate bond becomes the subject of speculation among their classmates, which gradually alters the boys’ relationship, leading to a devastating tragedy. Dhont, working in a mode quite similar to his compatriots Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (Two Days, One Night), is highly attentive to physical proximity and the remarkable nuance of his young actors, effortlessly drawing the viewer deep into the dynamics of Léo and Rémi’s relationship. When it changes fundamentally, the film is unflinching in its impression of the emotional consequences. Close is not an easy watch, but it is ultimately a cathartic one, rendered with surprising honesty.

Dark Nights Golden Days (with Oshima Brothers)

We’ll be trying something a little different for our matinee screening on March 12, when the esteemed Maine indie duo Oshima Brothers present their new film/visual album, Dark Nights Golden Days. You can expect to hear about how they made this 45-minutefilmfrom scratch, watch thefilm, see humorous behind-the-scenes footage, join in for a Q & A and hear a few songs from the brothers live. It will be a one-of-a-kindafternoon.

In their first self-directedfilm, Dark Nights Golden Days, Oshima Brothers tell the story of their lives as artists and siblings. They depict a world torn apart by climate change that’s consoled by people and art. Thefilmis a visual album that pairs with the sequence of their new record, Dark Nights Golden Days. Sean and Jamie explore the joys of the nature (rivers and coasts, mountain tops and horizon lines, wildflowers and wilderness) that they enjoyed growing up in Maine. The visual album dances between themes of addiction to technology, lost love, climate change, and life’s many simple pleasures. Thefilmwelcomes viewers into the deep imagination of the band, mixing gorgeous northern drone footage with green screen action scenes built into 3D animated spaces and scenes from around New England.

The Maine-based indie duo released their 17-track albumDark Nights Golden Daysin spring of 2022. Music has always been a central part of the brothers’ lives but for the past decade so too has filmmaking, having already created over 30 of their own official music videos.

OnDark Nights Golden Daysthe brothers have crafted a richly layered sound that is at once retro and metro, spacious and intimate, lush and loud. The music very much reflects the duo’s DIY approach. Sean and Jamiewrote and sang all the songs and played nearly all the instruments, and Jamie also produced, recorded, and mixed the album. During the filming process Jamie directed, edited,filmed, and produced while Sean focused on casting, costuming, choreography, and filming

The Quiet Girl

Pretty much every Oscar season there is one nominee for Best International Feature that, by dint of the release schedule or a lack of critical attention, comes as a minor shock to the awards pundit class. This year that surprise is Colm Bairéad’s Irish-language coming-of-age film The Quiet Girl, which alongside EO is the strongest film in the category. In her debut film performance, Catherine Clinch stars as Cáit, the most solemn member of a growing, impoverished family who is sent to live with her aunt and uncle for the summer as her family awaits the birth of a new child. What transpires from there is pretty simple: a gentle thaw of relations and identity, but one conveyed with such specificity that it’s impossible to come away from The Quiet Girl unmoved. The film is Bairéad’s debut feature, though you wouldn’t know it from his precise and preternaturally elegant imagery and control of tone. While it’s not an entirely uplifting story, I think audiences will cherish this film.

2023 Oscar Nominated Shorts - Live Action

Wrapping up our screenings of this year’s Oscar nominated shorts programs (but not our streak of nominated films!) is the 2023 Live Action shorts program, whose offerings range from a whimsical fairy tale to a taut thriller to a darkly comic family story. The longest, and for me the most noteworthy, film in the lineup is Le pupille, directed by the extraordinary Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher. (Her terrific film Happy as Lazzaro is available on Netflix, and she’s contributed top-notch work to HBO’s great, wildly undervalued adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend.) Le pupille is set over the holidays at a religious boarding school in Italy, where a series of odd events stirs up the rebellious spirit of the school’s young girls. Other highlights of the program include Eirik Tveiten and Gaute Lid Larssen’s Night Ride, about a Norwegian woman who finds herself in control of her town’s automated tram, and Cyrus Neshvad’s gripping The Red Suitcase, about a teenage Iranian girl’s journey through a Luxembourg airport.

NYICFF Kid Flicks: Celebrating Black Stories (Free Family Day screening)

As part of our Family Day programming on Saturday, February 25, we’re pleased to offer a free screening of the “Celebrating Black Stories” shorts program from the New York International Children’s Film Festival. In these seven films, Black stories take the spotlight to highlight films that share the joy, determination, resilience, and complexity of being Black and young. Explore a range of genres and styles in a program that spans the globe.

2023 Oscar Nominated Shorts - Documentary

By far the longest of this year’s shorts programs, but perhaps its most edifying and eclectic, are the documentary shorts, which dwell on American politics, some very different animal caretakers, and emotional and intellectual evolutions over the course of 2.5+ hours. The program gets the tearjerkers (Jay Rosenblatt’s earnest and affecting How Do You Measure a Year? andKartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga’s The Elephant Whisperers) out of the way first before pivoting to more sober fare. Joshua Seftel and Conall Jones’s is an emotionally risky work of longform journalism examining a would-be domestic terrorist. Haulout, directed by Evgenia Arbugaeva and Maxim Arbugaev and quite evidently the strongest film of the bunch, so masterfully conceals its subject matter for about five minutes that I’m loathe to spoil the surprise. Wrapping things up is Anne Alvergue and Beth Levison’s The Martha Mitchell Effect, an impressively edited, fully archival dive into the impact of the titular political wife on the Watergate scandal and beyond. (Listeners of the podcast Slow Burn may be familiar with Mitchell’s story, though this short offers a more capacious survey of its subject.)

2023 Oscar Nominated Shorts - Animation

One of our most popular annual programs, we begin our annual screenings of the Oscar nominated shorts this weekend with the very strong animated shorts package, which begins in high, wry style with Lachlan Pendragon’s funny and inventive An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It. Think Being John Malkovich meets The Truman Show and you’re somewhere in the ballpark of this beautiful stop-motion gem. For my money, the peak of the program is the third film, João Gonzalez and Bruno Caetano’s The Ice Merchants, which takes a serene, surreal premise and executes it with a stunning mix of beauty and tension, masterfully meting out information and landing on an exquisite final image. Also of note is the one short in the program which is decidedly not suitable for children, Sara Gunnarsdóttir and Pamela Ribon’s My Year of Dicks, which chronicles a high school girl’s dynamic coming-of-age with an aptly eclectic, almost zine-like animation style and no shortage of trenchant wit.

The Rules of the Game

Released in a brand new 4k restoration, Jean Renoir’s masterful 1939 dramedy about French high society has long been considered one of the greatest of all films. Until it fell to #13 last year, The Rules of the Game placed in the top 10 of every decennial Sight & Sound critics’ poll from 1952 until 2012. The film’s history, however, is much more complicated. When it was made, Renoir’s film was the most expensive French production in history, and the film’s initial release was highly divisive. Right-wing audiences booed and even fought at early screenings, and an intense critical reception prompted Renoir to reduce the film’s running time from 113 to 85 minutes. Much of that excised original material was lost, only for most of it to be rediscovered in storage, and a close approximation of the original cut was constructed in 1956. This is where the reappraisal of Renoir’s only “flop” (which was released shortly after one of his other masterpieces, 1937’s Grand Illusion) truly began. A riveting portrait of French elites and their servants during a hunting weekend on the eve of World War II, The Rules of the Game is a cutting and sophisticated moral tale and a striking example of an early classical-era film with a curious, roving camera and intense deep-focus shots.

Bad Axe

At once sweeping and intimate, David Siev’s documentary Bad Axe (shortlisted for Best Documentary Feature at this year’s Academy Awards in a highly competitive year) follows a Michigan family through the first year of the pandemic and an outbreak of unity and division in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. For his first directorial feature, Siev turns the lens on his Asian American family, a large and tightly knit group who all pitch in to run the family restaurant. David’s father survived the “killing fields” of Cambodia, and this trauma has instilled a tremendous resilience in the family, which is tested by the multi-faceted constraints and tensions unleashed by the pandemic. The family and their restaurant prove to be a uniquely fruitful perspective through which to relive the many ruptures of 2020, allowing Siev to offer a bracing and at times messy (in a good way) perspective on social justice, personal security, and small business ownership. I’ve read a couple variations online of Michigander Bad Axe viewers calling the documentary “the most Michigan film ever made,” a commentary on the movie’s complicated politics, which don’t settle neatly into conventional boxes and contribute to the film’s overall richness.

Saint Omer

Saint Omer is a film whose main idea sounds rather academic, but it’s nested in a gripping courtroom drama. The debut fiction feature by the French filmmaker Alice Diop (whose documentary We (Nous) is another of the year’s better movies) is based on a trial Diop attended in 2016, in which a woman was tried for the murder of her own infant daughter. Diop’s stand-in here is Rama (Kayije Kagame) a successful writer and professor who has a difficult relationship with her mother, and by extension the idea of motherhood. She decides to attend the trial of Laurence Coly (Guslagie Malanda), who claims that her child’s death (which she admits to facilitating) was an act of sorcery, the result of a curse.

Diop pointedly focuses on the fundamental illogic of Laurence’s crime, and how it is irreconcilable with the necessity of logic and cause-and-effect in the deliberations of a courtroom. Saint Omer is an inquiry into the nature of both subjectivity and objectivity. Diop draws this dialectic out further by placing Rama in the audience of Laurence’s trial, where Rama observes Laurence, everyone observes and judges Laurence, and in one startling moment, Laurence regards Rama. The dissonance between how we understand ourselves and how we are understood is one of the great subjects of philosophy (it should be noted that Laurence is an aspiring philosophy student), but it’s rare for a film to be so exquisitely subtle about its central idea. Here, it’s conveyed in delicate blocking and judicious editing, the building blocks of cinema. Brilliantly conceived and profoundly affecting, Saint Omer challenges our notions of knowledge and fairness through the simple act of listening to and regarding others.

EO & Au Hasard Balthazar

Often, I’ll begin these blurbs with a recap of a prolific director’s career, but I must admit that I have not seen a single film by the octogenarian Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski, who has by all accounts led a pretty varied and successful career before striking unexpected late-career gold with his terrific new film, EO. Co-written with his wife, Eva Piawaskowska, Skolimowski’s film can be viewed as a 21st-century revision of Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar, a monumental tale of a donkey’s passive experience of modernity. (You can watch both of these films here on Sunday, January 29!) Skolimowski has been coy about whether his film is an homage, a correction, or something else entirely; his intentions aside, it feels accurate to say that EO is more curious about its donkey protagonist than Bresson’s film, which emphasizes the animal’s lack of control.

As filmed by Michael Dymek, EO is an open-minded and even liberatory experience. The film sends its adorable gray donkey (played by six adorable gray donkeys) on an episodic and often painful experience that moseys from Poland to Italy and touches on various aspects of agrarian and modern life. (Among other things, the donkey endures a handful of owners and finds himself wrapped up with a group of soccer hooligans.) Though Eo the donkey is not personified in any way—I would not know how to characterize his personality—Skolimowski’s film insists that he is a being with motivations, thoughts, and feelings. These are expressed both in the animal’s doleful eyes but also in the film’s willfully expressionistic, almost psychedelic aesthetic, where the camera will suddenly circle a wind turbine or tint the whole screen red. If Eo effectively proves a guide for the viewer, ushering us through a series of alternately hilarious and heartbreaking short films, the weird and enrapturing aesthetic Skolimowski deploys makes the animal’s freedom our primary concern.

Exhibition on Screen: Hopper: An American Love Story

This new film, released to coincide with the Whitney Museum’s current exhibition “Edward Hopper’s New York,” takes a deep look into Hopper’s art, his life, and his relationships. From his early career as an illustrator; his wife giving up her own promising art career to be his manager; his critical and commercial acclaim; and in his own words – this film explores the enigmatic personality behind the brush…

Combined with expert interviews, diaries, and a startling visual reflection of American life, Hopper brings to life America’s arguably most influential artist.

Let It Be Morning (with Maine Jewish Film Festival)

In collaboration with the Maine Jewish Film Festival, we’re excited to present a special advance screening of the new film from Eran Kolirin, director of the widely acclaimed 2007 film The Band’s Visit. An ensemble dramedy centered around Sami (Alex Bakri), who was born in Palestine but works in Jerusalem, the film is an exploration of cultural and personal identity set in an Arab village that suddenly finds itself under military lockdown. Rich with symbolism, Let It Be Morning begins at a celebratory family wedding but evolves into a thorny consideration of deceit and sociopolitical capital, suggesting that the borders that divide us can be psychological as well as physical.

Broker

The Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda specializes in films about friendships and families develop when they’re impacted by circ*mstances that run afoul of societal norms. His most successful film, 2018’s Shoplifters, is a standout in a long career of effective and very consistent dramas in this mode. Broker, Kore-eda’s first film made in South Korea, is something of a companion piece to Shoplifters, a humanist study/detective story that evolved from the director’s study of South Korea’s “baby boxes,” places where people can anonymously leave young children. Starring Song Kang-ho (best known as the father in Parasite, and a Best Actor winner at last year’s Cannes Film Festival for this performance) as a deeply indebted laundromat owner who partners with a security guard (Gang Dong-won) to illicitly sell children left in baby boxes to wealthy families, Broker approaches fraught material from a wealth of perspectives with great curiosity and empathy. Equal parts crime caper, social drama, and gentle comedy, Kore-eda builds a warm and resonant story out of inherently challenging material.

The Eternal Daughter

After a steady career working in British television, the director Joanna Hogg first appeared on the critical radar with a trio of acclaimed but underseen films co-starring Tom Hiddleston made both before and after his breakout Marvel role. With considerable support from Martin Scorsese, Hogg belatedly but still rather quietly made herself known to American audiences with The Souvenir (2019) and last year’s The Souvenir Part II, perhaps the most unlikely cinematic universe this side of Richard Linklater’s Before films. Balancing themes of addiction, grief, and the impulse to create art, the Souvenir films -- which star Honor Swinton Byrne and her mother, Tilda Swinton -- are a ripe and endlessly surprising diptych, by turns icy, elliptical, funny, and tremendously tender. I highly recommend seeing one or both of them before checking out Hogg’s new film, The Eternal Daughter, which stands on its own as an emotionally rich British gothic tale but also functions as a phantom limb of the world of The Souvenir.

A Covid production with a limited cast set entirely at a creaky, yawning hotel, The Eternal Daughter finds Tilda Swinton again portraying the aging but endlessly sympathetic Rosalind, who lived in the hotel as a child. Swinton also takes on the role of Julie, Rosalind’s filmmaker daughter, the part that was played by Swinton’s own daughter in the Souvenir films. Though this meta wink enriches the film (Tilda does an incredible job of recreating her daughter’s gestures), The Eternal Daughter more than stands on its own as a deft genre exercise that yields a tremendously nuanced consideration of family and aging. Nodding to classics like Hitchco*ck’s Rebecca and Jack Clayton’s The Innocents (a masterful adaptation of Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw), Hogg sublimates her admiration for British cinema into Rosalind, who seems to represent a last gasp of kindly British formality and the country’s historical memory of World War II. Julie, forever indecisive and overworked, attempts to “direct” this vacation so that her mother will provide her with fodder for a future film project. This endeavor is thwarted by elements both supernatural and hilariously practical (Carly-Sophia Davies, as the hotel’s receptionist, gives hands-down the year’s funniest performance). The Eternal Daughter is sort of a ghost story, but its hauntings aren’t just phantasms or memories: they’re also mundane and devastating fears, like what if we don’t fully understand ourselves or our loved ones before they’re gone?

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed

One of the most acclaimed films of the year, the remarkable All the Beauty and the Bloodshed is a rigorous and hugely affecting chronicle of the life, art, and activism of the photographer Nan Goldin. Her slide show/artist book The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, a photograph from which is featured in our current exhibition “Presence,” is a crucial element of element of the documentary and perhaps the nexus of all its ideas about therapeutic expression, pain, and self-discovery.

Goldin is, perhaps needless to say, an esteemed photographer whose intimate and uncanny art stands as a lodestar of both the downtown NYC arts scene of the 1970s and 1980s and the subsequent AIDS crisis that ravaged the same community. Her work curating an exhibit of queer art during this time became red meat for the culture wars of the 1990s, one of many moments of the film that feel as though they’re reflecting our present experience. Director Laura Poitras, a cerebral and uncommonly gifted figure in the documentary world – she is best known for the Oscar-winning Citizenfour, about Edward Snowden, but I highly recommend her 2010 War on Terror film The Oath – shapes the film into a revealing and stealthily devastating dialogue about how Goldin’s experience in a troubled family informed both her work and the long struggle with opioid addiction that led to her activism against the Sackler family, whose name until recently was a fixture at major museum’s across the world. Patrick Radden Keefe, the New Yorker writer whose book Empire of Pain is an essential text for understanding both the Sacklers and the current addiction crisis, offers useful context throughout All the Beauty and the Bloodshed but the film broadly functions more like an almost unbearably intimate personal essay. It’s framed and structured with incredible care and delicacy, and it’s as forthright and quietly devastating a film as I’ve seen this year.

The Inspection

A raw and intimate boot camp drama, The Inspection is the striking feature debut by filmmaker Elegance Bratton. The film, an autobiographical portrait of Ellis (Jeremy Pope, in a performance just nominated for a Golden Globe), an unhoused gay man who enlists in the Marines to earn the respect of his hom*ophobic mother (Gabrielle Union), has more than a little in common with Barry Jenkins’s landmark Moonlight. Bratton deftly evokes both the brutality and the unlikely tenderness of its setting, which has been explored in films as distinct as Full Metal Jacket and Beau Travail. Taking cues from both (the great Bokeem Woodbine plays a familiarly fearsome drill sergeant), The Inspection still blazes its own trail thanks to its fraught consideration of Ellis’s subjectivity in an environment where everyone is meant to behave as though they don’t have an identity. Why would Ellis want to subjugate himself in this way, and place himself in an environment where he must live a lie? Bratton approaches this question with a great deal of nuance and ambiguity, resulting in a film that resists tidy narratives but offers deep wells of empathy.

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PMA Films: Don Hertzfeldt's amazing new animated short, a document of contemporary Iran, and more "Talk of the Town" — Portland Museum of Art (2024)
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