Film noir is an organic American cinematic movement, but its DNA contains elements from elsewhere: the visual motifs of German Expressionism, the fatalistic viewpoint of artists fleeing the war in Europe. It’s only fitting, then, that the twelfth annual Noir City Film Festival cast its net wide and showcased noir from around the globe. Programmer, master of ceremonies and impresario extraordinaire Eddie Muller has assembled an amazing line-up including several films that have never screened theatrically in the United States before. Rosemarie and I attended the opening weekend in San Francisco.
What can I say about The Third Man (1949), other than this movie directed by Carol Reed and scripted by Graham Greene is one of the few perfect things in this world? The Ferris wheel scene is its best-known moment, but on this viewing (I couldn’t guess how many times I’ve seen the film) I was mesmerized by what came just before it, as Holly Martins (Cotten) sees his friend Harry Lime (Welles) approaching from a distance. Welles moves with uncanny brio; Harry, like Welles himself, is a star in the world of post-war Vienna. Rosemarie’s succinct analysis: “At the start of the movie Cotten bounds off the train an American, full of purpose. At the end he’s slumped against a broken down cart, smoking, wishing for something he knows will never happen to happen. He’s become European.”
Exhibit A and Exhibit B). A piñata that never empties, Victims communicated directly with the audience’s reptile brain. We didn’t care about motivation or coherence. We only wanted, craved, demanded MORE. These two movies, produced when the Production Code still held sway over Hollywood, demonstrated the freedom filmmakers elsewhere had when addressing adult subject matter. A scene in Palm has a married couple in the standard separate beds of the 1950s only to have the husband slip in beside his wife, while Victims is breathtakingly forthright about prostitution.
|Me ruining a perfectly good book.|
For the last few years Eddie has been keeping festgoers apprised of the status of the FNF’s latest project, a restoration of the independently made 1949 film noir Too Late For Tears. The new 35mm print, financed in part by a contribution from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s trust, was unveiled on Friday night. Having seen it, I should just toss the two public domain DVDs I own. Roy Huggins’ casually diabolical script prefigures A Simple Plan as young L.A. marrieds Lizabeth Scott and Arthur Kennedy accidentally come into possession of a hefty extortion payoff. As Scott’s avaricious tendencies get the better of her, the blackmailer (Dan Duryea) comes calling. It’s unquestionably Liz Scott’s finest hour, but good luck taking your eyes off Duryea who saunters onto the screen all rancid insouciance and ends up timid and broken before La Scott. How successful was Saturday’s screening? People were turned away from a theater that seats over 1400 people.
a film noir blog in Japanese, and beautifully provided Eddie’s introductions in her native tongue.
Alas, that was it for us, but Noir City Seattle starts in only two weeks. Not every title that screened in San Francisco will play in the Northwest; the Mexican films we saw won’t make the trip, for instance, and neither will The Black Vampire, a 1953 Argentine remake of Fritz Lang’s M unspooling at the Castro on Friday.
|Miss Noir City 2014 Evie Lovelle. Also pictured: me.|
Cocktail notes ... on this trip I finally made it to the highly touted Rickhouse, where I enjoyed a Fort Point (bourbon, grapefruit, tart cherry, falernum) and a Rye Smile with rye, lemon and mint. I’d heard nothing but raves for the drinks at Nopa so I ventured there for brunch with David Corbett. I can thus sing the praises of the California perfect Sunshine Fix (aperol, gin, lemon and Angostura bitters). If you’re dining around the corner from the Castro at Poesia – and you should – order yourself a La Dolce Vita made with Jack Daniel’s and Amaretto. My primary contribution to this year’s Noir City will come on Friday night when, naturally, I won’t be there. Cocktails at the Castro that evening will be made with Giffard liqueurs and by Erik Hakkinen, the Giffard rep in the U.S. whose secret identity is bartender at my haunt the Zig Zag Café. Should you find yourself at the theater, be sure to sample his handiwork – then tell him to get back up here and make me a drink.