Using Strange Humor to Grapple With Loss

From Thank You and Good Night (1991), dir. Jan Oxenberg

Pioneering queer filmmaker Jan Oxenberg’s documentary memoir Thank You and Good Night made the rounds of the indie film festivals in 1991, but then almost immediately fell into obscurity. For decades it was completely unavailable, until it got a 4k restoration from IndieCollect in 2018. Now, this beautiful-looking restoration is streaming on the Criterion Channel (along with two of Oxenberg’s early shorts), and you should seek it out immediately.

Oxenberg took home video she filmed of the final days of her beloved grandmother, Mae, and incorporated it into an at turns philosophical, morbid, and funny meditation on death. The film continually defies documentary convention with creative invention, such as Oxenberg participating in a fanciful “game show” in which she is quizzed on just how much she knew about her grandma’s life. Oxenberg, Mae, and other family members are represented in the past not just through archival materials, but also with animated cardboard cutouts acting out events. The film captures the stream of consciousness one goes through when processing the past in a wholly unique, often charming way.

Thank You and Good Night is now available to stream on the Criterion Channel.

Jan Oxenberg grapples with the loss of her grandmother in Thank You and Good Night, a film that’s fallen into obscurity since 1991 but is now available to stream.Read MoreFilm, Capsule Reviews, Criterion Channel, death, Documentary, Jan OxenbergHyperallergicRead More

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