By Keahi Akina | Staff Writer 

Laetitia Carton is a young French director who the average moviegoer would surely be unfamiliar with. But her documentary, “Le Grand Bal,” was showing in primetime on a weekend night at the Kaimukī Movie Museum on Saturday. 

The Movie Museum shows foreign, vintage and contemporary films. In October the most recognizable film on the schedule is “The Quiet Place, Part II,a horror movie featuring Emily Blunt.  Jaynie Chong, a sweet lady who one will normally find behind the phone when one calls The Museum to book a reservation, is always eager to give advice on how to get there. It’s the smaller of two white tents in the parking lot at the corner of Harding and 12th Avenue. 

The Museum stands at 3566 Harding Ave in Honolulu. Their phone number is (808)735-8771. 

Behind the counter are stacks of DVDs. To the right of the entrance are mountains of VHS tapes. They lean in haphazard towers. The films represent a sophisticated collection of foreign, vintage and contemporary titles that are for rent to inquiring patrons. The titles read like the collection of the consultant that Criterion contacted whenever they needed advice determining their catalogue of the most important classic and contemporary films. They’re organized first by region and then by genre. French on the far-right, cult classics and documentaries on the left. These hundreds of VHS tapes visible from the door are only the overflow from the storage room. 

“Le Grand Bal” is one of many excellent choices by Dwight Damon, the owner of the Museum and who curates the Movie Museum’s lineup each month. He is equally proud and critical of his selections. Most of the films shown in the theater are Blu-ray but they still have the technology to show Laserdisc or VHS films when they are appropriate. Not all of the selections that Damon would like to show are available on Blu-Ray. Upcoming films that he strongly recommended are “The Man Behind the Scissors” aka “Hasami otoko” and “Nero Wolfe: Death of a Doxy.” The October film schedule can be found here. 

“Five-ninths of the films here, you’d be hard-pressed to find digitally.” Damon said. 

“Le Grand Bal” is a French documentary that follows the seven days and nights of an annual dance festival in Gennetines in Allier, France that draws 500 musicians and 2000 dancers. It is narrated by Carton in poetic vignettes. The sound of the film was recorded thoughtfully. There’s an appropriate gasp from the audience at a sudden stop in the polka and a subsequent roar of delight as it begins again. One particular shot, a colored blur of the bodies behind a closeup shot of two hands which one imagines to belong to two twirling bodies, is a shot that begs a watcher to ask “Now, how did she manage to do that?” 

A regular customer, Mr. Fujimori, has been coming to the Movie Museum since 1989, when the Museum was still under previous management. He’s a short man with a mop of hair on his head and foggy glasses. When asked if he watches all of the movies that are shown at the Movie Museum, Mr. Fujimori, 62, responded “If I don’t come in to watch it, it means I’ve already seen it.”  He seemed to recall nearly every film he had seen, along with the directors and actors of merit. 

Damon is such a movie connoisseur and so loyal to his loyal customers that he takes their interests and schedules into account. If he knows that a customer who might be interested in detective films he will schedule a detective film for a night they’re likely to come. 

Most of the patrons are regulars. Damon even structures the schedule of the month based on the interests of his regulars and the times they are typically available for these screenings. The line outside doesn’t get very long, there are only 15 available seats. It’s a charming little theater. It’s well-worth its cheap admission price of $8 for General Admission tickets and $5 for anyone 60 years or older, children under 13, and members who have paid the $26 membership fee. The seats are appropriately separated to keep up with social distancing laws. To reserve one of these limited spots, call the number listed above. 

Like all other businesses, masks are mandatory while inside the theater. Social distancing is mandatory and it’s recommended that one waits in their car until 10 minutes before show time. This allows movie-goers who have come on foot or on public transportation to make use of the chairs outside of the entrance. 

More information can be found on the Kaimukī community website.