Sunday, February 3, 2019

Noir City Film Festival 17 (2019)


It's that time of year again, Noir City! After the launch of my audio drama podcast, I no longer blog here, except now as it's a great space for recount my experiences at Noir City this year for future reference and remembrance.

I met some incredibly interesting and inspirational people like Imogen Smith, Meredith Brody, and Andy Wolverton (pictured with me below), had great movie-viewing time with friends, scored some good reading material, posed for a few fab photos (thanks Dennis Hearne) and saw some fantastic films!

Reading picked up this week at festival, bookstore, and library:
  • Samuel Fuller's autobiography A Third Face
  • Dashiell Hammett's biography: A Life by Diane Johnson
  • Noir City Annual 2018
  • Garbage: The Saga of a Boss Scavenger in San Francisco by Leonard Dominic Stefanelli
And most importantly, my goal of this post is to recall key things about each film so I don't forget everything I've seen--to recall the films I saw, what I liked and didn't, and make note of the films I didn't see and mark for future viewing.

Noir City 17 (2019)

Friday Jan 25th
  • Trapped (1949) - viewed - dir: Richard Fleischer, with Lloyd Bridges, breaks him out of jail to finger the counterfeiters, solid noir.
  • The File on Thelma Jordon (1950) - viewed - dir: Robert Siodmak, with Barbara Stanwyck is innocent of her aunt's murder? Liked it, solid noir.
Saturday Jan 26th
  • The Well (1951) - missed (matinee) - dir: Russell Rouse, cinematography: Laszlo, black girl's disappearance and effect on racially mixed town. From talking to people that'd seen it, sounds very emotional and intense. Need to see.
  • Detective Story (1951) - missed (matinee) - dir: William Wyler (The Good Fairy, Roman Holiday), with Kirk Douglas, William Bendix, Eleanor Parker (need to see more of her films). I really like Wyler, Douglas, and Bendix, so gotta check this one out!
  • The Turning Point (1952) - viewed - dir: William Dieterle, with William Holden, Edmond O'Brien, Ed Begley, really liked the female actress Amanda Waycross, great scene of the henchmen scattering in a split second leaving the main bad guy alone with the cops. Great film, runner-up as my favorite of the festival.
  • Angel Face (1953) - viewed/seen before - dir: Preminger, with Jean Simmons and Robert Mitchum, also with Herbert Marshall, is she crazy? Did she kill her parents? Really unnerving!
Sunday Jan 27th
  • Pickup of South Street (1953) - viewed/seen before - dir: Samuel Fuller, with Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, and Thelma Ritter (no relation to John Ritter), film wanted by Feds taken from carrier's purse on train by pickpocket, really sad death of Moe the stoolie, learned that pickpockets are called "cannons" - FAVORITE of festival.
  • City the Never Sleeps (1953) - viewed - dir: John H. Auer, with Gig Young (holy crap...25 years later he killed his wife and committed suicide, yikes!), Marie Windsor, and William Talman (famous for TV's Perry Mason, but in a few noir films in this festival) touted as an oddity--didn't strike me as odd, cop thinking about getting out gets a supernatural (?) partner played by Chill Wills--they never develop why this new partner doesn't exist, he doesn't really do the Jimmy Cricket or Clarence bit, but they try to do the Twilight-Zone bit at the end where everyone says the cop was working on his own that night. The cop accepts this without missing a beat and is meaningless. Entertaining enough, but flawed film, not a favorite.
Monday Jan 28th
  • The Pushover (1954) - viewed - dir: Richard Quine, script: Roy Huggins, with Fred MacMurray and Kim Novak so obviously not wearing a bra (how did she get away with that?!) also with E.G. Marshall, fun and suspenseful film of cop trying to get away with the loot. Great film, another runner-up to festival favorite.
  • Private Hell 36 (1954) - viewed - dir: Don Siegel, script: Ida Lupino and Collier Young, with Ida Lupino and Steve Cochran (from The Beat Generation and some great Twilight Zone episodes), dirty-cop theme, liked the guy who wasn't happy about begin roped into the theft (Howard Duff). Gavin reminds me the trailer he rented was number 36. Really great film, the heavy soft focus filter on Lupino seemed unnecessary. Stories where a good person gets roped into being an accomplice...find those hard to watch!
Tuesday Jan 29th
  • Kiss Me Deadly (1955) - missed/seen before - dir: Robert Aldrich, script: A.J. Bezzerides from novel by Micky Spillane, with Ralph Meeker and Gaby Rodgers, bonkers story about the briefcase with the mysterious and very volatile contents. Fantastic film and I love Meeker at Spillane, but needed a day off from the festival (and important, final client call the next day with Punchcut, so needed to skip).
  • Killer's Kiss (1955) - missed - dir/script: Kubrick, never seen this one and it would have been great to see on the big screen as I remember trying to watch on TV and was bored (but will try again), but I had to get a full nights sleep before work Weds so had to skip Tuesday's films.
Wednesday Jan 30th
  • The Scarlet Hour (1956) - viewed - dir: Curtiz, with Carol Ohmart and Tim Tryon (never seen him in anything else, but she was in House on Haunted Hill and Spider Baby...and a film I've never seen The Wild Party, 1956, why have I never seen that film, sounds great!). This is the one where she is cheating on her husband (James Gregory of Barney Miller fame) and decides it'd be a great idea (and so easy too!) to highjack the thieves stealing jewels from an LA mansion. What chumps! The best part of the film was the best friend played by Elaine Stritch...she's sooo awesome! Solid film made better because of Stritch!
  • A Kiss Before Dying (1956) - viewed - dir: Gerd Oswald, with Robert Wagner in this nasty film about a boy killing his preggers girlfriend to keep his life from being derailed. When the girlfriend shows up to class the next day alive was awesome and her sitting on the edge of the roof when you know he's going to push her any minute killed me! Amazed Robert Wagner didn't get typecast, but his good-looks and cold madness (as opposed to totally bonkers madness) probably protected him. Great film. Pretty darn satisfying ending.
Thursday Jan 31th
  • Nightfall (1956) - viewed - dir: Jacques Touneur, script: Stirling Silliphant, with Aldo Ray and the adorable Anne Bancroft. Really liked the tough but sweet Aldo Ray, love his strange raspy voice and his very relatable emotions as a guy unfairly in the hot seat. And wow, Bancroft is so young! The scene she is modeling a beautiful gown and runs off the cat walk to alert her man to the danger lurking was a high point, as was the whirring blades of the slow moving snow's coming right at you! Another extremely satisfying ending! Another runner up, well... actually a tie as my show FAVORITE! 
  • The Burgler (1956) - viewed - dir: Paul Wendkos, script: David Goodis, with Dan Duryea, Jayne Mansfield, and Martha Vickers (played crazy Carmen Sternwood in The Big Sleep). Despite a fantastic start with a tense jewelry heist within the 15 minutes it takes for the evening news to play out, and the victim walking back-and-forth in front of the open safe (camera POV from inside the safe), the film was a stinker! Oh lasted soooo long. The characters agonized over things that didn't make any sense and their motivation seemed off. Not a good film, was sooooo bored and glad when the end finally arrived.
Friday Feb 1st
  • Touch of Evil (1958) - viewed/seen before - dir/script: Orson Wells, with Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, and Orson Wells and Marlene Dietrich, brief appearance by Zsa Zsa Gabor and really weird character played by Dennis Weaver. Don't need to jog my memory for this film...seen so many times and it's soooooo fantastic! Still giving the favorite of festival to Pickup and Nightfall as few films can compete with Touch of Evil on many levels. Eddie talked about how two Wells' films bookmarked the noir era: Citizen Kane (1941) was a huge influence on the substance and style of noir, kicking off the era and Touch of Evil ending the classic noir era.
  • Murder By Contract (1958) - missed - dir: Irving Lerner, with no one I'm familiar with except for Herschel Bernardi (Lieutenant Jacoby in Peter Gunn). Sounds super interesting, gotta check it out. 
Saturday Feb 2nd
  • The Crimson Kimono (1959) - viewed (matinee) - dir/script: Samuel Fuller, with James Shigeta, Glenn Corbett, and Victoria Shaw (doesn't she look a bit like Sean Young?) --all amazingly attractive people. Really interesting film that focuses on the Japanese community in LA. Pretty good story about best friends in a love triangle working to solve a murder. The murder investigation didn't have enough to it, until the end to create the tension I think it needed to counter-balance the love angle...felt a bit weak and heavy-handed, but very heartfelt and interesting focus on the Japanese detective. Here's a link to an interesting article I'll be reading -- 
  • Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) - missed/seen before (matinee) - dir: Robert Wise, with Harry Belafonte, Robert Ryan, Shelley Winters, Ed Begley, and Gloria Grahame. Seen this one and needed to get ready for the evening out for Andrea's birthday at Val's. Great film and tense with a distrustful and desperate trio of heisters. Worth seeing again at home.
  • A bout de souffle (Breathless, 1960) - viewed - dir: Jean-Luc Godard with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg. Great, fast paced, character study of a petty criminal and the girl who falls for him. Eddie talked about a fact I didn't know (or remember?) that the jump cuts came out of Godard's need to shorten the film, so he cut sections of shots/scenes instead of cutting whole scenes to make up the time, and the jump-cut was born! Loved it!
  • Psycho (1960) - missed/seen before - dir: Hitchcock, with Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins. I've seen before but not for a long time and a clip I watched (in Serina's Noir City 17 clip film) didn't look familiar, so I really need to see again. I totally don't get worked up about "is it" or "isn't it" noir arguments and am behind Eddie that this film, at least the beginning, has traditional noir elements. Need to see again!

Sunday Feb 3rd
  • Blast of Silence (1961) - viewed - dir/script: Allen Baron, with Allen Baron as the main character. Independent film shot on location in NYC from late noir or "neo-noir" period. This one is another tie with South Street. Like most low-budget films, a few shots like the character walking down the street lasts too long, but wow, overall I loved this story of a hit man who is desperately lonely and wants out. The story is that Peter Falk was going to take the lead role, but had to drop out, leaving the director to take the lead and he was fantastic, can't imagine anyone else in the role. 
  • Underworld, U.S.A. (1961) - viewed - dir/script: Samuel Fuller, with Cliff Robertson, Dolores Dorn, Beatrice Kay, and Paul Dubov (frequent actor in Fuller films). Really great! I've technically seen it before, but I didn't remember most of it. Robertson's character gets revenge on the big-time crooks not by direct means, but by strategy, leading to their demise. Things don't end well for him, but he gets his revenge.
That makes 17 films out of 24! Happy I could go to the late shows this year, even if that did mean I'm under employed. 

So my watch list for 2019:
The Well
Detective Story
Killer's Kiss
Murder by Contract

Thanks to Eddie Muller and the whole crew (see back page of program) for another fabulous festival! Highlight of my year!!

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