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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Portland's Past: A Penny Allen Retrospective

Posted by Alison Hallett on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 at 11:59 AM

Last night I went to Tad Talks, the storytelling series that writer Martha Grover hosts at Tad's Chicken 'n' Dumplings in Troutdale. It was the last show of the season (they'll pick up again in the fall) and it was a fun night, in part because most of the performers were from the region—a Tad's waitress told a story; so did Grover's dad. Corbett was well-represented. Most storytelling shows are Portland-centric, which almost by definition means "people who moved here from somewhere else six years ago." Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it was great to see a show whose storytellers clearly had deep roots in the area.

Regionalism was on my mind already, though, because I spent yesterday afternoon watching movies by Portland-born filmmaker Penny Allen, who's getting her very own retrospective at the Hollywood this weekend. Allen's first two films, Property and Paydirt, are incredible snapshots of Oregon in the late ’70s and early ’80s: Property is set in Portland proper, and follows a ragtag group of neighbors who rally together to try to buy the block of homes where they live; Paydirt is set out in wine country, and it follows a woman who turns to growing weed when realizes grapes alone won't pay the bills.

Here's a slightly NSFW scene from Paydirt that captures the extremely Oregon nature of the film. Paydirt came out in 1981, the year before I was born, so I assume this is basically what my conception looked like.

The Penny Allen retrospective is at the Hollywood this weekend; Allen, Gus Van Sant, and poet Walt Curtis will be in attendance for some screenings. Details here.

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