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Noir City

Blu-ray: ‘Woman on the Run’ and ‘Too Late for Tears’ restored

The Film Noir Foundation, creators of the San Francisco-based Noir City Film Festival and its companion travelling version, expanded its purpose a few years ago to raise money to restore orphaned films, those independent productions made outside the studio system in partnerships formed in some cases to make a single film. Two of their most recent restorations have come to disc in lovely sets: the superb Woman on the Run (Flicker Alley, Blu-ray+DVD) with Ann Sheridan and the fascinating Too Late for Tears (Flicker Alley, Blu-ray+DVD) with Lizabeth Scott.

toolateIn Too Late for Tears (1949), Lizabeth Scott plays one of the most ruthless heroines in film noir in, a status-conscious middle-class wife who will do anything to keep her hands on a suitcase of cash that lands in her lap by accident. Arthur Kennedy is her husband who wants to take it to the police but is tempted enough to hold onto it for a night or two (just to think over the ramifications, you know) and Dan Duryea is a mercenary crook who comes looking for the cash (payment in a blackmail scheme) and ends up her wary partner. Scott has played her share of heroines and villains both but here she’s pure avarice and cold-blooded greed. She stares at the money piled on the bed with wolfish hunger and childish ecstasy and she’s ready to murder to keep it. The money doesn’t corrupt her, it merely unleashes her suppressed greed. She’s nervous and perhaps even reluctant to carry out the first—fate steps in with a nudge when she hesitates—but she follows through without a regret and doesn’t even flinch the second time. Scott may be a poor man’s Bacall but is no man’s fool. Duryea is in fine form as a weasel of an opportunist, sneering his dialogue in the early scenes and then slipping into disgust and drink as Scott slowly takes control of the partnership. In a genre defined by corrupt, ruthless, and conniving characters, this film features two of the most reprehensible and cold-blooded. Don DeFore is the old “army buddy” who hides his own secrets.

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Seattle Screens: Noir City 2013

Noir City 2013, my favorite Seattle festival of the year, opens for a week of double-feature showings (and one triple-feature) of classics, rarities, rediscoveries, and restorations. I preview the opening night program of two Cy Enfield pictures, the independently-made Try and Get Me! (1950), rescued and restored thanks to the efforts of the Film Noir Foundation, and The Hell Drivers (1957), at Seattle Weekly here, and recommend a few highlights from the 15-film program. But most of these films are new to me and not (or no longer available) on home video, so this festival will be one of discovery (hopefully) for me as well.

While most films are screened on 35mm, there are new 4K digital restorations of Billy Wilder’s Hollywood Gothic noir Sunset Boulevard and Blake Edwards’ sleek thriller Experiment in Terror, the two most familiar films in the line-up (and both available on Blu-ray and DVD), and a double feature of Noir 3D from 1953 – Inferno, a rare sun-blasted color noir with Robert Ryan, and Man in the Dark with Edmond O’Brien—on DCP digital prints (which, frankly, is a lot easier than trying to get 3D prints to work well, or at all).

Returning to Seattle screens is The Window (1949), the “boy who cried wolf” noir and the first film restored by the Film Noir Foundation (festival founder and ever-present host Eddie Muller brought it to SIFF years before he brought Noir City to Seattle) and The Chase (1946), a Cornell Woolrich adaptation that played in SIFF’s archival line-up just last year. The former creates a marvelous atmosphere of a sweltering New York summer in the city in the oppressive urban clutter of tenements and apartment houses where a bored young kid sees a murder committed across the alley, and the latter puts a surreal twist to classic noir elements in the story of a shell-shocked veteran (Robert Cummings) who gets tangled up with a Miami mobster and his desperate wife and slips into a nightmarish B-movie exaggeration of the nocturnal criminal world.

I look forward to discovering the rest, including the newly revived Native Son (1950), an adaptation of Richard Wright’s novel starring the author himself, produced in Argentina with a French director, and a pair of pre-code dramas—A House Divided (1931) from director William Wyler and Kiss Before the Mirror (1933), directed by James Whale between Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein—that aren’t noir by any definition but are arguably noir ancestors with some family resemblances.

Complete schedule here, along with ticket information. Passes for the entire program are also available.

In a timely bit of programming synchronicity, Northwest Film Festival presents a revival of Michael Roemer’s Nothing But a Man (1964), a drama of African-American working class life in sixties America. The synchronicity? On Monday, February 25, Noir City offers a pair of films with African-American protagonists: the above-mentioned Native Son and the 1949 Intruder in the Dust. Showtimes here.

Also at NWFF is American.Film.Week, with seven new film from American independent filmmakers playing one film a night. See schedule here.

And at SIFF Film Center this Saturday and Sunday is the South Asian International Documentary Film Festival. Details here.

Opening this week: Bless Me, Ultima, an adaptation of the Rudolfo Anaya’s novel of Mexican-American life in 1940s America by director/screenwriter Carl Franklin (I review it at Seattle Weekly here) (area theaters), John Dies at the End from Don Coscarelli (reviewed by Tom Keogh) (Varsity), Dwayne Johnson in Snitch (area theatres), the horror film Dark Skies (area theaters), and the documentaries Sound City from Dave Grohl (Sundance Cinemas) and Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary (a “worshipful biopic” according to Robert Horton at The Herald) (Grand Illusion).

Visit the film review pages at The Seattle TimesSeattle Weekly, and The Stranger for more releases.

View complete screening schedules through IMDbMSNYahoo, or Fandango, pick the interface of your choice.

Seattle is Noir City

For the next week, Seattle is Noir City and Parallax View is helping put it on the map.

Noir City,” the traveling portion of The Film Noir Foundation’s annual San Francisco noir festival, opens it fifth edition in Seattle on Friday, February 11 and casts its long shadow with a week of double features, all presented on 35mm and presented in person by Eddie Muller.

On Monday, February 14, “For the Love of Film (Noir) Blogathon,” a celebration that casts its web across the Web to raise money for film restoration, kicks off and Parallax View is playing a part this year.

The timely convergence of the two out-of-time celebrations is too fateful (emphasis on the fate part) to ignore and Parallax View hopes to make the most of it.

The “For the Love of Film (Noir) Blogathon” is hosted by Ferdy on Film and The Self-Styled Siren (aka Marilyn Ferdinand and Farran Nehme), who will compile the lists of posts across the Internet. For information on the Blogathon, see Ferdy on Film here, and for information in participating, see The Self-Styled Siren here. The official Facebook page is here and links to all the featured articles are here.

Check in Monday for the first post in the Parallax week of Noir love.

In the meantime, there is Noir City rolling out at SIFF Cinema (located in the Nesholm Family Lecture Hall on the lower level of Marion Oliver McCaw Hall at Seattle Center).

Noir City Schedule

Friday, February 11, 2011
High Wall – 7:30 PM
Stranger On The Third Floor – 9:30 PM

Saturday, February 12, 2011
They Won’t Believe Me – 2:00 PM
Don’t Bother To Knock – 4:00 PM
They Won’t Believe Me – 7:30 PM
Don’t Bother To Knock – 9:30 PM

Sunday, February 13, 2011
Angel Face – 2:00 PM
The Hunted – 4:00 PM
Angel Face – 6:00 PM
The Hunted – 8:00 PM

Monday, February 14, 2011
A Double Life – 7:00 PM
Among the Living – 9:00 PM

Tuesday, February 15, 2011
The Dark Mirror – 7:00 PM
Crack-Up – 9:00 PM

Wednesday, February 16, 2011
The Woman on the Beach – 7:00 PM
Beware, My Lovely – 9:00 PM

Thursday, February 17, 2011
Loophole – 7:00 PM
Crashout – 9:00 PM

For more information, visit the SIFF website.

Interview: Eddie Muller, the Ambassador of Film Noir

Author, critic, film authority and festival programmer Eddie Muller was branded “The Czar of Noir” by James Ellroy for his knowledge of and passion for the subject. Since publishing Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir and programming a film noir festival in Los Angeles in 1998, Muller has become not simply the most prominent film noir authority in the U.S., he’s become an ambassador for film noir as the organizer, programmer and Master of Ceremonies of the Noir City Film Festival in San Francisco (and in the smaller traveling Noir City offshoot) and as the president of the Film Noir Foundation, the non-profit organization that puts on Noir City and uses the proceeds to fund film restoration. The Eighth Annual Noir City (with 24 films in 12 programs over 10 days) unspooled at the Castro in San Francisco in January 2010 and the Seattle incarnation (14 films over 7 days) opened on Friday, February 19. (The Hollywood incarnation at the historic Egyptian Theater, where Muller programmed his first film noir festival, is scheduled for April.) I spoke with Muller by phone between the San Francisco and Seattle series and we talked movies, noir icons, film preservation and the thrill of seeing film noir on the big screen. (My profile and preview of the series is at The Stranger here.)

Noir City 2010

This is the eighth year of Noir City, and the fourth road show edition of Noir City in Seattle. How have you been able to develop it into such a big annual event?

First off, it’s the eighth Noir City Festival we’ve done in San Francisco but I’ve actually been doing them, oh my God, this will be my eleventh year in L.A. at the American Cinemateque, which is where I actually started doing it. But those early ones at the Egyptian weren’t Noir City events, that’s a San Francisco thing, there’s where it was started. And it really was like the perfect storm, in a way. It’s a combination of showing the right kind of films in the perfect venue in San Francisco at the exact right time of year. Beyond that, I guess that somehow it works that people like to have a personality or a face attached to it that they recognize, so that has been helpful, it turns out, that I’m so associated with this festival and that I’m a San Franciscan, that certainly has helped in San Francisco. So that’s really it. There’s nothing else competing in San Francisco at that time of year, is winter, it makes sense for film noir, the Castro is the perfect place to show these films. People have turned it into a real happening and that’s really—besides the restoration work and all kind of stuff—it is fascinating to me that we have show, somehow, that you can draw a thousand people on a weeknight to watch sixty-year-old black-and-white films in a theater. It is pretty remarkable.

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