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Notebook on Cities and Culture S2E23: Stumptown Shaolin with Dan Halsted

Colin Marshall sits down in the basement of Portland’s Hollywood Theatre with Dan Halsted, head programmer there and founder of the 35mm Shaolin Archive. They discuss fake Bruce Lee films; his adventure of rescuing classic kung-fu film prints, including gems like The Eight Diagram Pole Fighter and The Boxer’s Omen from a shuttered, junkie-surrounded theater in Vancouver; his youth in a distant Oregon town with 600 people, his move to Portland, and his discovery of kung-fu cinema; how much more kung-fu movies offer than the fighting; the advantageous openmindedness of Portland filmgoing culture; exploitation films and Quentin Tarantino’s high-profile love thereof; how different cities react to kung-fu movies, like the robust Chinese turnout in San Francisco or the disappointing attendance in St. Louis; kung-fu movies as a gateway to Chinese culture; 36 Chamber of Shaolin as a gateway to kung-fu movies; the evaporation of celluloid film, and the apparently dramatic shift in the way those under age twenty experience cinema; the various meanings of terms like “exploitation” and “grindhouse,” and how the attendant concepts cannot be separated from the seventies, a time when Hollywood acted serious and independent film acted frivolous; what Portland’s smallness affords a film programmer; why audiences sometimes prefer watching a beaten-up print to a pristine one; how Portland has successfully integrated food and alcohol with filmgoing; his experience getting tased, and how the Portland police force, known for its own aggression, tried to use kung-fu movies against him in court; and his never-ending task of pushing outward the limits of local film taste.

Download the interview from Notebook on Cities and Culture’s feed or on iTunes.

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