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Noir Invades Castro
by Tom Mayer
When Godard said, 'All you need for a good movie is a girl and a gun,' he was probably thinking of Joseph H. Lewis' 1950 master-B-picture-piece 'Gun Crazy' which will show at the festival replete with an appearance by star Peggy Cummins. photo: courtesy J. Lewis
Considering San Francisco served as the urban backdrop of Hollywood's noir movement, it is no surprise that the local
Noir City Festival
is doing so well. Indeed, its 11th annual returns to the Castro Theater from January 25 to February 3 with 27 films including three new 35mm restorations funded by the Film Noir Foundation, which also organizes the festival.
"This is the best festival yet because of the diversity of the programming," I was told by Eddie Muller the so-called "Czar of Noir," who has been getting a lot of traction of late. A twenty-year resident of Alameda, the sleepy Bay Area community where the foundation is located, Muller has also published coffee-table books about, lobbied on behalf of, and otherwise encouraged noir, which he feels is Hollywood's only native film movement.
"We've established ourselves to the point where we're premiering more restorations of rare movies than ever before, like 'Try and Get Me', 'Repeat Performance', and 'High Tide'," Muller continued. "Now the studios are coming to us to premiere their own digital restorations, such as 'Sunset Boulevard', 'Experiment in Terror', and the 3-D noirs we're screening, 'Man in the Dark' and 'Inferno'."
"Thanks to the movie fans in this city, Noir City has a worldwide reputation as a totally unique cinema event. [This is] for two big reasons: the biggest crowds anywhere for repertory programming, and the fact that we use the proceeds to preserve at-risk vintage films. The most popular we become, the more films we save."
"The restoration work we do at the Film Noir Foundation, I consider the most important work in film preservation right now, to preserve at-risk examples of film noir, which I consider to be Hollywood's only truly organic artistic movement."
The self-style 'Czar of Noir' Eddie Muller publishes books on the subject as well as runs the festival and foundation. photo: courtesy E. Muller
Muller considers big-screen exhibition to be a vital part of his mission to offset the seizure of the screen by handheld devices.
The festival kicks off with a tribute to special guest star Peggy Cummins, the sharpshooting star of the legendary "Gun Crazy" (1950) directed by Joseph H. Lewis. In fact, Cummins will be traveling all the way from her home in London to be interviewed onstage by Muller following the screening.
With San Francisco the central urban icon of the noir movement, it is only logical that its revival would also be centered here and that the foundation and its festival would keep expanding. Indeed to celebrate both, Turner Classic Movies will feature "A Night in Noir City," on Thursday, January 17, with Muller co-hosting the evening with TCM's Robert Osborne. They are presenting a five-film program of rare noir, including two of the FNF's restorations, "Cry Danger" and "The Prowler".
The Noir City Festival will present both celebrated classics and wonderful rarities newly rescued from extinction and revealed better then audiences first saw them in brand-new 35mm prints. Others will screen for the first time in gorgeous high-rez, 4K digital restorations. Opening weekend will feature the world premiere of two of the FNF's latest restoration projects, "Try and Get Me! " (1950) and "Repeat Performance" (1949).
'The Art of Noir', Muller's book on the film's posters, a powerful aesthetic all its own. photo: D. Blair
FNF will also officially announce the Nancy Mysel Legacy Project, created to recognize the successes of new film preservationists. It is a tribute to FNF's restoration manager, Nancy Mysel, who died in 2012 after a prolonged battle with cancer. Her family will be present on Saturday night, January 26, to inaugurate the project.
A banquet for genuine film lovers will be served one evening with a triple bill of ultra-rare, pre-Hays Code, proto-noirs: William Wyler's "A House Divided" (1931), James Whale's "The Kiss Before the Mirror" (1933) and the long-lost film version of novelist Jim Tully's "Laughter in Hell" (1933).
Also a night of "African-American Noir," highlighted by the West Coast premiere of the rarely-seen adaption of Richard Wright's classic "Native Son" (1951)—starring the author himself. There will also be the U.S. premieres of stunning 4K digital restorations of the stupendous "Sunset Boulevard" (1950) and the locally shot thriller "Experiment in Terror" (1962) directed by Blake Edwards.
The week winds up with a flourish: A night of 3-D Noir, pairing two of the very first 3-D movies of 1953, "Inferno" and "Man in the Dark", which are having their world premieres in 4K digital restorations. There is also a triple bill tribute to the king of fatalistic pulp fiction, Cornell Woolrich, including a brand-new 35mm print of "Street of Chance" (1942), the world premiere of "The Chase" (1946), freshly restored by The Film Foundation, and the FNF's preservation of the suspense classic "The Window" (1949).
Gloria Swanson, as a faded silent star in Billy Wilder's spectacular black comedy 'Sunset Boulevard'. photo: courtesy B. Wilder
The festival wraps with an all-day marathon of six rare B-noirs, including the world premiere of another FNF restoration, 1948's "High Tide"—the perfect remedy for a recovery from the revelry of the Noir City Nightclub, a festival specialty, which returns on Saturday, February 2.
The Noir City Nightclub is where partiers time travel to 1949 for an evening of scintillating music, sexy striptease, dancing and drinking (at the Regency Lodge, 1290 Sutter Street). This year's show, emceed by Muller, includes the hot jazz of the Dmitri Metheny Group (unveiling its "Crime Jazz Suite"), the pop-noir stylings of Erin Brazill and the Brazillionaires ("The Hitchcock Suite"), the return of international striptease sensation Evie Lovelle, torch song temptress Laura Ellis, and the uniquely soulful and sinister serenades of El Radio Fantastique.
Individual tickets and Passports (Festival Passes) on sale at
Brown Paper Tickets
Posted on Jan 28, 2013 - 03:19 AM