Rétrospectives: Metrograph, New York, 2017, Hollywood Cinema, Portland, 2016

1978, fiction feature, 90 min, WNET television, USA, selected for US Film Festival (Sundance), prize winner, Northwest Film Festival, prize winner, Maverick Film Festival, New York, Rotterdam Film Festival, Florence Film Festival (Italy), Portuguese Film Festival, Hof Film Festival, Germany, Sydney Film Festival, Moscow Film Festival, Cineprobe, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Western States Arts Festival, prize winner, Gus Van Sant’s Carte Blanche at the Cinémathèque française, Paris, 2016, Casa Encindida, Madrid, 2018, La Rochelle Film Festival, 2019, Splendor Films, MARY-X Distribution (release in France, 2021), Canal Plus, 2021, London (The Barbican), Brussels, The Block Museum, Chicago, Museum of Modern Art, New York, with a streaming by MOMA, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Japan, 2023. Distribution Sundance VOD.

Critics’ view

Screen Slate, by Madelyn Sutton, Jan., 2022

In the 1970s, activist, theater critic, and native Oregonian Penny Allen took part in a movement to rescue the Corbett-Terwilliger-Lair Hill neighborhood of Portland from high-rise developers. Inspired by this collective effort to maintain a beloved enclave of ramshackle Victorian homes and their eccentric tenants, Allen wrote a script that condensed the events and the broad swathe of people involved into what would become Property (1978), her feature film debut. Made with recent RISD graduate and first-time cinematographer Eric Alan Edwards (My Own Private Idaho, Cop Land), who brought college friend Gus Van Sant on board as sound recordist, the resulting film’s prescient, evergreen relevance and cast of indelible, intimately-captured characters make for an endlessly watchable if bittersweet time capsule.

Gentrification wasn’t yet the byword for what was happening in Allen’s hometown and thus doesn’t appear in the script. Yet much of what occurs will be painfully familiar to today’s viewers, who may find the film overly generous to its often self-centered, mostly white characters (in the words of one collectivist, “How many Black people live in this neighborhood, and why aren’t they here?”). The echoes of futility don’t end there: couch-surfing comedian Corky Hubbert (Legend) relates the excitement of demonstrations against the local Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, which was eventually shut down and demolished. Protests of that scope don’t seem to be coalescing today around this “safe” energy source, the expansion of which is encouraged by the Green New Deal.

Property’s lasting power doesn’t arise from its suggested alternatives to capitalist land grabs or any inspiring visions of success. Rather, the naturalistic performances from its charismatic cast—mostly local theatrical actors—bring humor and beauty to a decidedly depressing topic, and the roving, documentary-style 16mm camerawork imbues the film with tender immediacy. Lola Desmond and Marjorie (whose salaries were subsidized by the Federal Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) portray a part-time sex worker and a thrift-store upseller, respectively, and play their post-hippy antics with undeniable magnetism—just one aspect of Property that reappears in the films of Kelly Reichardt and Van Sant, to name a few of Allen’s Northwest indie successors.

Also : Cahiers du Cinéma, juillet-août, 2021, p. 50, « Property » de Penny Allen, La Quadrature du Cercle, by Eva Markovits

Catégories : Non classé