Although almost every facet of the economy has been brought to its knees by the COVID-19 outbreak, there are few industries that have been quite as decimated as the film business.
Independent theaters are perhaps feeling the worst of the financial sting, since they often rely on donations and special events to make ends meet. That's certainly the case for Portland's beloved Hollywood Theatre, but thankfully for film lovers, the nonprofit has developed a streaming program to bring in some money that also allows audiences to stay connected.
It's one thing to set up a virtual cinema, it's another entirely to attempt to replicate the Hollywood's unique atmosphere—one that has charmed Portlanders for decades, but has also hosted celebrities like Quentin Tarantino and RZA. But by partnering with studios, distributors and filmmakers to create digital events, head programmer Dan Halsted and his team have gotten as close as you can to the real deal.
"We're going to be doing an education series starting soon," he explains. "People will pay to get an introduction and post-screening discussion that they can be a part of. The first one will be hosted by me and will be Chinese Boxer."
Halsted, who's fresh off hosting a podcast discussion about kung fu cinema with Tarantino, says the Hollywood's tradition of showcasing a wonderfully curated mélange of old and new will continue during the temporary closure. For instance, one of the partnering cinemas—Austin, Texas' Alamo Drafthouse—is bringing Portland audiences Roar, an absolutely bonkers 1981 cult film about big cats and the weirdos who love them—a topic Tiger King has made popular in recent weeks.
Other movies the Hollywood is pulling out of the vault include Rififi (1955) and Band of Outsiders (1964). Both are required viewing for any serious film buff, since they continue to influence motion pictures to this day. The underappreciated Rififi, for example, is a stunning French heist film from director Jules Dassin, who was blacklisted in the U.S. for his ties to the Communist Party. The 28-minute safe-cracking scene alone is worth the price of admission, and its echoes can be found in the Ocean's trilogy and, really, the overall Steven Soderberg aesthetic.
Jean-Luc Godard's Band of Outsiders is probably the French New Wave pioneer's most accessible film, and it stars the great Anna Karina—his longtime muse. Though the movie flopped after its initial release, the standout iconography and cafe dance sequence turned it into a cinematic touchstone. Tarantino's production company, A Band Apart, is named after the film's French title, Bande à part. If you're the type of viewer who feels intimidated by foreign cinema, either of these seminal works are a highly approachable place to start.
Viewers can also count on rare and exciting offerings, like Sátántangó, Bélla Tar's masterful 1994 "slow cinema" project about a Hungarian village dealing with the fall of communism that clocks in at over seven hours. While that may sound daunting, consider that legendary critic Susan Sontag once called it "devastating and enthralling for every minute of its seven hours." If that's not enough to get you to hunker down with the episodic film, keep in mind that the beauty of watching this from home is the ability to take breaks whenever you want (that—and you can smoke weed in the cinema, aka your living room). Anyway, you're not going anywhere, so forget rewatching The Office again and let your homeschool film education commence.
SEE IT: To purchase access to the Hollywood Theatre's streaming films, go to hollywoodtheatre.org.