We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of New South Wales stands.

Film series: Zany, cute, interesting

Still from Ohayō courtesy Shochiku Co Ltd

Still from Ohayō courtesy Shochiku Co Ltd

This series pays close attention to the feelings that cinema inspires.

How does cinema make you feel?

This series pays close attention to the feelings that cinema inspires. Spanning the 1930s to today, it unites screwball comedies with masterpieces of Japanese kawaii, African nouvelle vague with path-breaking documentaries. These are films that make your head spin at their exuberant energy; films that make you melt and go ‘aww’; films that reconfigure how you see the world: ‘aha!’

Zany, cute, interesting is inspired by cultural theorist Sianne Ngai’s insight that the colloquial ways we respond to artworks reveal something about contemporary society. We feel zany because of our frantic working lives, our love for cute things indexes the cult of commodities, we are easily bored and on the hunt for novelty because of the lightning-fast flow of information around us. How have filmmakers elicited these affects and transformed them over time?

The series opens with a lineage of zanies whose manic performances blur the line between work and play. It bounces from Charlie Chaplin in 1930s LA (Modern times) to Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin in 1950s New York (Artists and models), hitches a ride with young outlaws in Dakar (Touki bouki), and ends up in Bucharest with Toni Erdmann, 21st-century cinema’s quintessential crank.

Next, we peer into the pint-sized realm of the squishy and adorable. In some films, the ‘cute’ hinges on sentimental feelings toward the diminutive, infantile and unthreatening. In others, suspicion and hostility mingle with tenderness: perhaps those doe-eyes are a trap. This strand features cute kids (Ohayō), creepy kids (The bad seed), a romantic drama enchanted by small things (The earrings of Madame de…) and exemplary cinema by two high priests of millennial cute: Wes Anderson and Hayao Miyazaki.

The ‘interesting’ sparks with curiosity and wonder. In the final strand, we chase this appetite for engrossing true stories across a quartet of acclaimed documentaries. We are introduced to mid-century travelling Bible salesmen, an eccentric VHS activist, resistance filmmakers in Sudan, and the hidden workings of the New York Public Library. These are docos which shine a light on our information-saturated world.

Film series: Zany, cute, interesting

Wednesdays 2pm & 7.15pm, Sundays 2pm
10 March - 16 May 2021

Art Gallery of New South Wales

Naala Nura, our south building

Lower level 3, Domain Theatre

🛈 Find out what you need to know before visiting

Free, bookings required

Tickets available outside the Domain Theatre from one hour before each screening. Early-bird tickets can be booked in advance online via Qtix. See Film ticket FAQs