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Property / Paydirt

A house party scene.
July 23, 2022 - 7:30 pm
In-person: 
filmmaker Penny Allen.


Los Angeles restoration premiere!

Property

U.S., 1978

“In the neighborhood where I was living, I was witness to a situation like the one in the movie, in the Corbett-Terwiliger-Lair Hill neighborhood of Portland. It’s very close to the center of town, so of course it was a target for the construction of high-rises … it was scheduled for demolition. The neighborhood kept it alive by buying up portions of it … It was full of low-rent people, artists, hippies. It was very idealistic, very dynamic, and it had been going long before I had lived there … The gentrification story began to happen, so that was the movie’s inspiration. When I go to Portland I still stay in that neighborhood, and it has survived—many of the people who were living there when we made Property haven’t moved.”—Penny Allen, Filmmaker magazine interview, 2017

Shot with a handheld 16mm camera with an ensemble cast of bohemian misfits in Portland, Oregon within arty, ramshackle interiors, Penny Allen’s little-seen debut feature marks an unofficial Part One of her hyper-regional diptych and ode to the Pacific Northwest. Starring local poet and painter Walt Curtis, whose autobiographical Mala Noche was read by Gus Van Sant while he did lighting for the film and would later inspire Van Sant’s directorial debut in 1985, Property made Allen one of only 16 American women making narrative features within or adjacent to Hollywood during the decade of the 1970s. As noted in the introduction to an interview with Allen in Filmmaker by Steve Macfarlane, “a truly regional cinema can’t always strike an imprint ready for mass consumption; there’s a grit (or maybe it’s more of a “funkiness”) to Allen’s antihero enclaves that still feels niche and marginal today.” Between the films, Allen will be in conversation with UCLA Film & Television Archive Research and Study Center Officer Maya Montañez Smukler, whose 2018 book, Liberating Hollywood: Women Directors and the Feminist Reform of 1970s American Cinema, features a chapter-length interview with Allen.

DCP, color, 92 min. Director/Screenwriter: Penny Allen. Cinematographer: Eric Alan Edwards. With: Walt Curtis, Lola Desmond, Nathaniel Haynes.

Paydirt

U.S., 1981

Working again with Lola Desmond as one-half of a rural Pacific Northwest vintner couple whose sun-soaked, peaceful existence—which also involves a cannabis-growing side hustle—is interrupted by a strange flood of violent robberies, Paydirt, as with Property, highlights Penny Allen’s knack for depicting a slice-of-life existence specific to a particular region. These hangout scenes glimmer between the key moments of dramatic incidents, which ring true to the late ’70s/early ’80s and the period’s strange mix of perceived freedoms found in counterculture and the collective awakening on the horizon to the new decade’s bleak reality. Though Paydirt visited Los Angeles when its sublime digital restoration screened in 2016, the Archive would be remiss in not celebrating Allen’s first two features back-to-back on the occasion of her in-person appearance.

DCP, color, 95 min. Director/Screenwriter/Editor: Penny Allen. Cinematographer: Eric Alan Edwards. With: Eric Silverstein, Lola Desmond, Daniel Odell, Melody Bates, Jacob Hayward.