Arts & Events

Around & About The Movies: Noir City Film Noir Fest #12

By Ken Bullock
Friday January 24, 2014 - 12:18:00 PM

Noir City, the brainchild of Eddie Muller of Alameda, is back for its twelfth time around, from Friday night until a week from Sunday afternoon, with evening shows & weekend matinees (at the bargain price of $10 per double or triple feature program) on the glorious big screen at the Castro Theatre.  

Opening night--this Friday--features two Orson Welles vehicles of international intrigue, mystery, stylized filmmaking & world-weariness: 'Journey Into Fear' (1943) & the iconic 'The Third Man' (1949). 

But for this Noir City as a whole, the accent is just as much on "ïnternational" as on intrigue, mystery, Expressionism or Weltschmerz--the breadth & depth of the offering of genre film from around the world is the true star of this edition of the festival.  

Film Noir from the UK ('Brighton Rock' 1947), Japan (Kurosawa's 'Drunken Angel' & 'Stray Dog,' 1948 & 49, with Toshiro Mifune's screen debut), Spanish film noir (Bardem's 'Death of a Cyclist' 1955), Mexican film noir, Argentinian film noir--Norwegian film noir!--some never before shown in the States, will be screened as well as the long thought lost, rediscovered & restored 'Too Late for Tears' (1949) & 'The Hitch-Hiker' (1953, directed by Ida Lupino), also newly restored, both from the great years of the genre in Hollywood. 

On Monday, there's an unusual double feature: two films set in Germany, 'Murderers Are Among Us' (1946), an immediate postwar German reaction to the guilt of those entangled in the Reich, & the first Hollywood movie shot postwar in Berlin, 'Berlin Express' (1948), Jacques Tourneur's international intrigue film. 

And like a mini-festival-within-a-festival, the weekend after this features on Saturday afternoon & evening a remarkable array of French film from the 30s through 50s, which show the stylistic subtleties & perfections the Gallic muse has added to the hardboiled genres picked up from America ever since Baudelaire translated Poe's 'Purloined Letter' & 'Murders in the Rue Morgue.'  

(Detective movies, policiers, gangster films, heist & other suspense pictures were such a glut in postwar French cinema, director Jean Renoir said Francois Truffaut told him that when a Renoir Hollywood film, penned by Faulkner, a drama about poor whites & flooding in rural America, opened in France, due to a mistaken transatlantic phone message, instead of translating "'The Southerner,' a film by Jean Renoir,' posters & ads read: "'Le Souteneur' [The Pimp], un film de Genre Noir.") 

From Duvivier's 'Pepe le Moko' (1937), one of the greatest of popular movies--one that directly inspired 'Álgiers' (with Charles Boyer), 'Casablanca,' 'To Have & Have Not' & others (& which was kept from American distribution until the past decade)--with fugitive Jean Gabin bursting forth in song on the roofs of the Casbah, to J-P Melville's rarity, 'Two Men in Manhattan' (1959), starring Melville (best-remembered as actor wryly playing Rumanian writer Parvelscu opposite Jean Seberg at Orly in Godard's 'Breathless'), as well as perhaps the greatest of heist films, American director Jules Dassin's French masterpiece 'Rififi' (1955), Noir City demonstrates in five films over an afternoon & evening the mellifluous French touch on the down & dirty. 

Noir City closes on Sunday, February 2, with a triple bill of exotics, something that carries internationalism to--& beyond--the limit: 'Singapore' (1947, with Fred MacMurray & Ava Gardner), & two unusual ones by "the greatest of exotic filmmakers--& one of the great lights""(Orson Welles), Josef von Sternberg's 'Macao' (1952, with Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell & Noir icon Gloria Grahame), plus 'his 'Shanghai Gesture' (1942), now neglected, but a strong influence in its time--& after--in France, with glamorous Gene Tierney cast against type as slumming college girl Poppy & the great Walter Huston, as well as a droll performance by Victor Mature as Dr. Omar, spouting quatrains from The Rubaiyat. 

Double & Triple bill evening shows from 7:15 or 7:30, matinees from noon or 1:15, $10; 27 film festival pass (plus admission to opening night Castro mezzanine reception at 6), $120. Castro Theatre, Catro Street near Market, San Francisco.