Bucking the pop-up trend, independent movie experience Speakeasy Cinema has found a permanent, 100-seater home in a former art gallery space in Fitzroy’s Victoria Street.
Dubbed Grey Gardens after the 1975 doco that went inside the crumbling mansion of eccentric Edith Bouvier Beale and her would-be actress daughter Edie—Jackie Kennedy’s aunt and cousin—Ghita Loebenstein, the brains behind the new multi-disciplinary art space, says the name evokes a kind of romantic eccentricity.
Describing Grey Gardens as a, “space between a white cube and a black box,” it will host exhibitions in the cool warehouse-style gallery space, while a health-conscious cafe will keep the place buzzing during the day, as well as evening screenings Tuesday through Saturday.
Loebenstein currently works with the Melbourne International Film Festival and is passionate about Grey Gardens’ Speakeasy Cinema evenings, showcasing a diverse range of movies Melbourne audiences might not otherwise get a chance to see.
“My philosophy is about showing overlooked and under-seen films, or those that I think can be given a renewed or different context,” she says. “Either I or the people that I work with have to love the film; it’s important to me that it must be a film worth talking about, which became an accidental by-line for us.”
July’s line-up includes another chance to see Matthew Akers and Jeff Dupre’s fantastic doco Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present, in a nod to the globally renowned performance artist’s current visit to Oz. Though Loebenstein is quick to clarify that Abramovic won’t be there. “I did try and get her, but her schedule is very busy,” she laughs. “I’m still hoping that maybe she’ll pitch up.”
Speakeasy Cinema will also host the Australian premiere of American directors Bingham Bryant and Kyle Molzan’s low-fi sci-fi film For The Plasma.
“I almost had the feeling that these people were either geniuses or complete amateurs, which made me love it even more by the end,” Loebenstein says. “It’s full of Lynchian weirdness with characters that seem to exist only in their own world. It’s ambiguous; it’s not a three-act structure that’s all wrapped up by the end. That’s what I like, people can fill in their own gaps.”
Grey Gardens is all about sharing ideas, and the Speakeasy Cinema program reflects that. “I always felt frustrated by the experience of going to the movies, seeing something amazing, or maybe not so amazing, and then having to turn to a friend and go ‘ok, where should we go now for a drink?’
“I wanted to create a space that isn’t as sterile as a traditional cinema and combined that with Melbourne’s love of food and wine,” she adds. “I wanted to make it a more social experience that’s as much about the conversation that happens before and after a film, the arguments that happen in line, as it is about the film itself.”
The gallery space will start off small with a retrospective of Melbourne video artist Xanthe Dobbie. “They are very pastiche, with a feminist pop slant,” Loebenstein says. There will also be a stand-up comedy and poetry slam fusion from Magic Steven.
Grey Gardens’ cafe will offer a simple, health-conscious menu all day long, including quick and easy grub to scoff during movie screenings. Danish open sandwiches, or smørrebrøds, will be stacked full of cured meat and pickles, as well as daily vegetarian and vegan options. Loebenstein describes larger smörgåsbords as a, “buffet for one.”
Three Thousand Thieve will curate a monthly rotation of coffee beans and there will be pressed juices from Greene Street Juice Co. “My hope is people will come for the gallery and stay for a coffee, or the other way around,” Loebenstein says. “It’s always been my want that people don’t have to eat bad food if they’re going to the cinema.”