Saturday, April 10, 2021

Noir City “With Me, It’s A Full-Time Job” Edition

The latest issue of Noir City, the magazine of the Film Noir Foundation, reached subscribers this week. And even if I did edit it myself, I’ll say this for it: it’s pretty good.

Enough false modesty. Honestly, you need to check this installment out, with all credit going to our top-drawer contributors, the wizardry of ace designer Michael Kronenberg, and the guiding hand of our publisher Eddie Muller.

I will humbly admit to getting the ball rolling on the cover story. A while back, I came up with the idea of the FNF presenting an annual Modern Noir Master Award, an honor that has been bestowed on Stephen Frears, James Ellroy, and David Mamet. When I realized that 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark UK crime film Get Carter (1971), I suggested to Eddie who our next recipient should be.

Writer/director Mike Hodges also made Pulp (1972), Croupier (1998), I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (2003), and other noir-adjacent films. In his 89th year, he has a new film in the works. All I had to do was put him together with our man on the Continent Ray Banks. The result is a free-wheeling, career-spanning interview that even covers Hodges’ own noir fiction.

I’ll also pat myself on the back for another contribution to this feature. We won’t be able to present the award live for obvious reasons, so I wanted to do something extra. Something special. Thus did I become fixated on the notion of having Sir Michael Caine and Clive Owen, the two actors who loom large in Hodges’ noir filmography, contribute to Noir City.

A longshot, I figured. But I am as tenacious an optimist as you will find, so I started making inquiries. Turned out, it couldn’t have been simpler. Both gentlemen were eager to say a few words on behalf of a valued collaborator and colleague, and you can read those words in this issue. I’ll admit I was chuffed it came together, as they say across the pond.

But that’s just for openers. In this issue, we also have—

Imogen Sara Smith with a definitive look at the work of filmmaker Christian Petzold, from his early German films never screened in the US to masterful features like Phoenix (2014) and Transit (2018);

An appreciation of a longtime noir favorite, the hard-luck actress Virginia Grey, from the Self-Styled Siren Farran Smith Nehme;

The career of self-described “Hungarian-born one-eyed cowboy from Texas” AndrĂ© de Toth, whose directorial credits include Pitfall (1948) and Crime Wave (1954);

An interview with Eve Plumb—yes, that Eve Plumb—about her second act as a painter whose work is inspired by classic noir films, and her turn as a villain in the neo-noir Blue Ruin (2013);

The screenwriting career of sportswriter Art Cohn, best known for the quintessential boxing film The Set-Up (1949);

Jason A. Ney’s insightful look at amnesia noir, and how this plot gimmick has evolved along with our understanding of memory;

I raise the question “Charlie Chaplin … noir filmmaker?” with an appraisal of his most confounding role, as the serial murderer Monsieur Verdoux (1947). My first draft of this article was heavy on Chaplin and Orson Welles, who came up with the idea for Verdoux, trash-talking each other for decades. I still think I should mount this as a one-man show.

And there’s still more. Trust me, you want this issue. All you have to do to get it is make a modest contribution to the Film Noir Foundation and our efforts to restore classic film.