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August 13th, 2008 AARON MESH | Featured Stories
 

Swill Merchant

Jacques Boyreau blurs the lines between bad movies and great drinking.

     
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BREW VIEWER: Jacques Boyreau displays his collection of reimagined grindhouse posters at Floating World Comics

Jacques Boyreau pauses from talking. This is not something the 42-year-old film promoter does very often, and when he does, there’s a very good chance what he says next is going to be memorable. This pause comes in the middle of a week when Boyreau has talked the owner of a Portland hot-dog shop into sponsoring a series of Chicago-themed movies at the restaurant, and it’s a little before he encourages the critics attending his screening of the Floating World Animation Festival to get up and move around the Bagdad Theater, because that’s how French comedian Jacques Tati said movies ought to be seen, and it’s definitely before he disappears into the back of the Bagdad to convince manager Sue Stephens that the film she should show next month is the 1984 sex comedy Hollywood Hot Tubs, because that’s the movie that people want to see, that’s the movie that will put butts in the seats.

But for a moment, Jacques Boyreau is quiet. He’s making a connection.

“This city has the potential to be a film mecca,” says the Chicago-born, Paris-raised impresario. “And let’s not kid ourselves: It has everything to do with beer. It’s understanding that relationship between cinema and beer. And more than understanding it—and this is where it gets interesting—but creating it.”

That’s exactly what Boyreau is doing. He’s a hustler, a raconteur and a ceaseless salesman—and his arrival in Portland two years ago is the best thing to happen to the city’s theater-pub scene since the McMenamin brothers started serving microbrews at the Mission Theater in 1987. Since Boyreau drove up from San Francisco, he’s partnered with nearly every movie hall in town that serves beer (and a few that don’t), persuading them to suspend their Iron Man screenings for weekends of obscure and often junky films.

Boyreau started last August with SEX PDX, a weeklong festival of vintage pornography at the Clinton Street Theater. He went on to curate a series called Deep Cult at the Laurelhurst—rare 35 mm prints of Walter Hill’s The Driver and Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic—and dream up Eco-Sicko, a program of environmentally-themed movies at the NW Film Center. (A movie was considered environmentally themed when Boyreau said it was; in his program notes, he explained that Brian DePalma’s Carrie “is the environment, a Raggedy-Ann uroboros, personally devouring us…in a telekinetic scourge.”)

But his crowning achievement so far is the SuperTrash 48 Hour Film Festival, which returns this weekend for its third run at the Bagdad. It’s another eclectic lineup of genre pictures—Grease, Zulu, Assault on Precinct 13, Labyrinth and Dario Argento’s Demons—complemented by Floating World’s trippy cartoon program, the world premiere of a documentary on hemp, and an appearance by underground claymation guru Bruce Bickford.

This is the kind of event that happens when somebody’s brain starts blurring the lines. “I love the idea of getting fucked up and then contemplating,” Boyreau says. “It’s unusual to have a social setting where you can get fuzzy and then get clear.”

Boyreau looked for that community in the ‘90s at Brown University, where his classmates included Todd Haynes, Doug Liman and Laura Linney. No luck: “Everything they stand for,” he says, “is not what I really, really love.” Maybe the answer was out West: “Let’s go to San Francisco and be smart and do drugs.” And for a while, that was it. In 1994, Boyreau created a psychedelic club called the Werepad—and when he wasn’t booking concerts and grindhouse flicks, he published two books of images (Trash: The Genius of Xploitation Movie Posters and The Male Mystique: Men’s Magazine Ads of the 1960’s and 1970’s) and directed a soft-core sci-fi film (Candy Von Dewd and the Girls from Laexploitia). He had his scene. And he loathed it.

“I left because I fucking hate California,” he says. “And I’m talking, like, all the levels. It’s an invasive nightmare. It’s a Biblical hellhole. The drug culture in some ways devoured the arts scene. San Francisco’s a whore of Babylon, dude. And if you stay down there long enough, you become a whore yourself.”

He thinks Portland can be different: a place where people gather to watch movies because they actually care about them. “Despair comes in a lot of ways,” he says, “and one of those ways is so-called ‘having a good time.’ I want people to consume movies like they are sustenance, and consume beer like it’s media. And we’re talking pitchers, obviously, not just pints.”

Boyreau—whose own beer of choice is Eugene microbrew Ninkasi—lives off royalties from his books and commissions he gets for finding rare movie prints for collectors. And he keeps coming up with new ideas: a art gallery and curio shop called Night Fix; a poster show built around the theme “New Wave Hookers” that will travel through Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland next spring before landing at the Andy Warhol Gallery in Pittsburgh; and a book deal with Fantagraphics that begins with Portable Grindhouse: The Lost Art of the VHS Box. On Sept. 26, SEX PDX returns—“it’s going to be hot and ancient and unpredictable and beautiful”—and Eco-Sicko begins its second run Dec. 5-7 with Paris, Texas and Videodrome.

Meanwhile, Jacques Boyreau keeps talking. “I’m a crazy hustler, there is no doubt about it,” he says. “It gives me the freedom to see connections, and the time to make those connections connect.”


MORE: SuperTrash plays Thursday-Sunday, Aug. 14-17 at the Bagdad Theater, 3702 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 236-9234. $5 per movie ($3 Thursday) or $15 for a full weekend pass.
 
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