As we come to the conclusion of the Museum’s Virtual OKCMOA project—though not our virtual screenings, which will continue until the Noble Theater reopens its doors—it seems fitting to look ahead to the many rich cinematic experiences still awaiting Oklahoma City audiences, both virtually in the short term, and eventually back in the comfortable, socially distanced confines of the Noble Theater.
Those new pleasures begin today with Dan Sallitt’s exceptional American indie, Fourteen (2019), a highlight of the 69th Berlin International Film Festival’s esteemed Forum section. The film stars Tallie Medel and Norma Kuhling as childhood friends, Mara and Jo, who remain close into early adulthood as they navigate dead-end jobs, ill-fated romantic relationships, and Jo’s unpredictable and self-destructive behavior. Sallitt has cited the influences of towering French directors Eric Rohmer and Maurice Pialat—sources of inspiration that can be seen in his film’s eloquent exchanges (Rohmer) and the melodramatic force that bubbles up from below his actor’s placid exteriors (Pialat). Looking to the creativity of the French New Wave and its fellow travelers, Sallit’s graceful film paves the way for low-budget American filmmakers looking to transcend time-worn indie cliches.
Joining Sallitt’s film on May’s virtual schedule, we are also proud to welcome back Steve James’s (Hoop Dreams) acclaimed documentary portrait of Roger Ebert, Life Itself. Each $5 virtual ticket includes a five-day pass to watch this intimate tribute to one of American film criticism’s most beloved voices and access to a special virtual Q & A featuring the director and the filmmaker’s widow Chaz on Wednesday, May 27. Also in May, OKCMOA’s virtual cinema will host another documentary look at a true American original, Diana Kennedy: Nothing Fancy. Awarded the 2019 Special Jury Prize for ‘Excellence in Storytelling’ at SXSW, Elizabeth Carroll’s in-depth portrait explores the life of one of this country’s most passionate advocates of Mexican cuisine, the inimitable, nonagenarian Kennedy. Virtual pass holders will be invited to join a Q & A with the director, culinary icon Alice Waters and New York Times City Kitchen columnist David Tanis.
Coming soon from NEON, the studio behind recent audience favorites like Parasite, Apollo 11 and Amazing Grace, virtual cinema offering The Painter and the Thief focuses on the real-life friendship that develops between a Czech artist and the career criminal who stole two of her paintings. A moving and surprising mediation on art and human connection, Benjamin Ree’s intricately constructed sophomore feature won the Special Jury Prize for World Documentary at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Another Sundance award winner from NEON, Josephine Decker’s Shirley makes its virtual debut in early June. The rising auteur behind Madeline’s Madeline and Thou Wast Mild and Lovely brings her signature expressionistic visual style to this riveting, Scorsese-produced portrait of celebrated mid-century horror writer Shirley Jackson (Elisabeth Moss).
Also on the horizon for June is another director who is greatly influenced by the French cinema, Hong Sang-soo. Well known by now to OKCMOA audiences for the six (!) new films that the Noble Theater has screened during the past four years alone, Hong’s rapidly expanding filmography will offer up three more features in the months ahead. The oldest, Woman on the Beach (2006), remains one of the great Korean director’s funniest, adapting his early-career two-part structure for a comedic, soju-soaked take on Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Woman on the Beach is one of the stronger films of the 2000’s, and is a very welcome addition, in newly restored form, to 2020’s virtual cinematic landscape. So too are the director’s asynchronous, epistolary masterpiece, Hill of Freedom (2014); and Yourself and Yours (2016), another comedic highlight that nonetheless manages something approaching Hill of Freedom’s moving conclusion in its novel, slightly looser variation on the director’s twinned constructions.
Later in the summer, back (we hope and fully expect) in the Noble Theater, Oklahoma City viewers will also get the opportunity to catch up with another East Asian filmmaker drawn to the French cinema—and one who benefited greatly from Ebert’s early advocacy—Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda (director or OKCMOA favorite Shoplifters). For his latest, 2019 Cannes Competition title The Truth, Kore-eda has teamed with French legends Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche, along with American indie favorite Ethan Hawke (the director’s non-French speaking surrogate), for his story of an actress mother and screenwriter daughter’s tumultuous reunion. An unfamiliar subject, to be sure, for the humanist portraitist of the Japanese family, there are moments of life, nonetheless, that remind the viewer of Kore-eda’s measured, observational brand of storytelling, one that luxuriates in the quiet moments, like prepping for a family meal, and in the particular dynamics of parent-child relationships, both biological and surrogate, which again provides a key theme in Kore-eda’s latest.
This summer brings Michael Winterbottom’s most recent “Trip” installment, The Trip to Greece. With the world, and certainly international travel, curtailed for the foreseeable future, Winterbottom’s comic sojourn into the picturesque Old World will be a very welcome respite for all its tourisitic qualities. Also on the horizon, two more travel themed films from global auteurs Werner Herzog—Nomad: In the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin—and Kiyoshi Kurosawa To the Ends of the Earth. Throughout the rest of 2020, we look forward to welcoming new unreleased work from the festival circuit, like the aptly titled film for our time, Roy Andersson’s About Endlessness, Sergei Loznitsa’s State Funeral (acquired last winter by MUBI), and our own favorites from this past February’s 70th Berlin Film Festival, which will be the last big public festival for some time: another great Hong, The Woman Who Ran; Tsai Ming-liang’s Days; Christian Petzold’s Undine; Philippe Garrel’s The Salt of Tears; Cristi Puiu’s Malmkrog; and the only briefly released The Assistant by Kitty Green, and First Cow by Kelly Reichardt. Cinemas may be temporarily closed, but cinema as an art is far from dead, awaiting that time again when its visual artists can return to the optimal canvas of the big screen and digital surround sound.
We look forward to seeing you all again in person sooner rather than later.
-Michael J. Anderson & Lisa K. Broad
More on Virtual Cinema: