Portlanders often bemoan the lost of the art movie house that once blessed Exchange Street, and add wouldn’t it be nice to order food and wine, sit in a comfy chair and watch amazing films otherwise only available at film festivals.
But the Portland Museum of Art’s revamped film program offers to fill this urge for better entertainment, starting last week with the sold-out Portland premiere of Tumbledown, and following up this weekend with The Heart of a Dog.
Plus, for the first time the museum cafe, run by Aurora Provisions, will sell high end beer, wine and food that patrons can take into the theater. Just don’t spill on the paintings; the exhibit halls remain off-limits.
The PMA films, programmed by Jon Courtney who also programs indie films for SPACE Gallery (you can see the whole list on the website), will not run every week like the old schedule, but be “closely tied” to other museum installations and local happenings.
It is just one iteration in PMA’s long-range project to “reimagine” the museum and its role in Portland, from a beloved, yet somewhat stuffy, iconic building where you view art to something more collaborative, interactive and relevant to newcomers here.
The multi-year project culminates in December 2017 when the museum will close for six weeks, then open with 40 percent more artwork presented; only about 5 percent of its 18,000 works of art in the onsite warehouse have ever been hung. “We’re more than just Wyeth, but that’s what everybody knows,” said Graeme Kennedy, PMA’s director of marketing.
Back to the films: Tumbledown was a great choice for the first film. Filmmakers Sean Mewshaw and Desi Van Til, both members of PMA Contemporaries, a leadership circle for 21- to 45-year-olds, have shown the film in the Tribeca Film and then the Savannah film festivals; at the latter, judges unanimously voted it best picture. It sold out the first weekend.
This weekend’s film, The Heart of a Dog, is a dreamy, evocative visual essay about the life and death of director, musician and artist Laurie Anderson’s rat terrier. A kind of collage of home movies, animations, her own art exhibitions and musical constructions, the film explores the underlying theme of love. Raving reviews have come from four film festivals, Indie Films and TheNew York Times.
The rest of the line-up this spring looks equally exciting, including Very Semi-Serious, a behind-the-scenes documentary that looks at how New Yorker cartoons are conceived, and Noma: My perfect storm, a cinematic “journey into the mind of world-famous chef Rene Redzepi” which includes a Q&A with David Levi of Vinland, (featured in this week’s issue) who was “astagiaire (intern) at Noma.
For more about films at the Portland Museum of Art, visit http://www.portlandmuseum.org/events/movies.