A Preview of Noir City Hollywood 22
February 24, 2020
This year, Noir City Hollywood is going all out – and international! In the past, fans were usually treated to two movies per night across the 10-day extravaganza, sometimes with a triple or quadruple feature throw in for max noir effect. But this year’s calendar blows that out of the water. Not only are there at least two films screening per evening, but there’s been three matinee programs added, with one boasting FIVE flicks in. a. row. I’ve survived their 2015 quadruple proto-noir extravaganza, which boasted four shorter features from the 1930s, but these are regular length pictures!
On top of all that, two new venues have been added into the mix: Aside from the stalwart Egyptian Theater, one screening will take place at the Egyptian’s sister movie palace, the Aero, and one at the newly restored Hollywood American Legion Post 43 Theater. With the embarrassment of riches this year’s festival offers, I'm extremely glad I’ll have a month break to recuperate before TCMFF comes to town in mid-April.
Given the above, I was naturally a wee bit overwhelmed when wading through this schedule. It will be very interesting to experience noir offerings from around the globe, and hopefully with Parasite’s recent historic Best Picture Oscar win, more people will be tempted to sample subtitled flicks. As per usual, I didn’t recognize half of the titles – this year, that would be most of the foreign selections – which always exhilarates and encourages me; I don’t want to miss anything! (But alas, I will be skipping some programming, mostly due to daytime UCLA gymnastics meets that I have tickets for already. Cause gymnastics > film noir for me, it’s true.)
With all that said, below is my preview of Noir City Hollywood 22!
The Beast Must Die/La bestia debe morir (1952)
I’m kind of shocked to see the lesser known movie open the fest as opposed to the famous Gilda. (But I actually love this.) Argentinian films have played at past Noir City events, and the darkness and stark cinematography of recently-screened pictures have impressed me. So, sign me up for this newly restored movie about a mystery writer taking on a new identity to find the person who killed his son. Sounds like a totally conventional plot, right?
You know, I don’t think I’ve seen Gilda in a theater before. And that’s all the convincing I need to see Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford scorch the screen.
The one that inspired, well, the two other movies Noir City is screening tonight! The German version starring Peter Lorre is a bona fide classic, and I’m looking forward to experiencing this chilling masterpiece with an audience.
I’m pretty sure Noir City has played this adaptation before – or at least I’ve seen it in the Egyptian – and I recall being astonished by the story’s overt (for the time) sexuality and David Wayne’s disturbingly nuanced performance. Plus, it’s always fun trying to spot all the mid-century downtown LA locations, like the Bradbury Building, where the film’s climax takes place.
El Vampiro Negro (1953)
This Argentinian version of M played at UCLA Film and Television Archive recently, and I’m not entirely sure if I saw it there; I’ve seen so many versions of this story that I’ve forgotten! But I don’t think I would have forgotten “Argentina’s Marilyn Monroe” so... no, maybe I haven’t seen El Vampiro Negro. Hopefully, the whole bleak child murderer plot point won’t completely get to me by the time this screening rolls around.
An Italian poster for the German film The Devil Strikes at Night.
SUNDAY 3/8 Matinee
The Devil Strikes at Night/Nachts, Wenn Der Teufel Kam (1957)
1.This title is, well, striking 2. I unfortunately won’t be able to see this movie (because: gymnastics) 3. That bums me out because this Robert Siodmak German noir not only looks thrilling but also appears to offer a probing and thoughtful look at morality amidst corruption and evil. Which is something the whole world should probably see.
Aw, man. The phrase “little-seen gem” is already giving me fomo. And comparing it to Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (1935). And “romance-on-the-run chemistry.” And the fact that this B-flick is “great fun, and surprisingly sexy for its time.” Obviously, I have to find another way to see Fly-By-Night stat, because the Cinematheque sold this film really well!
SUNDAY 3/8 Evening
The Housemaid/Hanyo (1960)
Not going to lie, Parasite was, I believe, the only Oscar-nominated film I saw last year. And I’ve been informed that this South Korean classic, which inspired the Oscar winner, cannot be missed. Plus, it was forgotten for decades so we kind of owe it to The Housemaid to give it all the attention it deserves.
My Name is Julia Ross (1945)
I’ve heard of this film but have yet to see it. And a tagline like “She went to sleep as a secretary… and woke up as a madman’s bride!” qualifies it as a must-see. Plus, My Name is Julia Ross was directed by Joseph H. Lewis, who helmed the classic Gun Crazy, which is a favorite of mine (also screening at Noir City this year), and I’d love to discover more of his work.
MONDAY 3/9 at the Aero
House of Games (1987) + surprise feature
80s noir + writer-director David Mamet on hand for a Q&A certainly sounds like a compelling evening. But the Aero is a haul from my work, so we’ll see if I make it. I’m also super intrigued by this surprise second feature…
TUESDAY 3/10 at the American Legion
Act of Violence (1948)
This is another film that I feel like I’ve seen, but I’m pretty sure I would have really remembered Mary Astor as a street-walker – and I don’t. (And I need that in my life.) Act of Violence has screened a few times in recent memory, but I think a Veterans Noir double feature at the brand new American Legion Theater presents the perfect occasion to catch this bleak Robert Ryan-Van Heflin-Janet Leigh-Mary Astor starrer. (Plus, they have a super cool bar downstairs. Just saying.)
Somewhere in the Night (1946)
An amnesiac man roaming through LA in an attempt to figure out his identify sounds like pure noir. And I can’t wait to see what ominous underworld LA locations we’ll get to see!
The Long Haul (1957)
With tinges of They Drive by Night (1940) and Hell Drivers (1957), The Long Haul looks like a testosterone-fueled road rage of a movie. The promise that it’s “amusingly sleazy” makes it even better!
Black Gravel/Schwarzer Kies (1961)
Trucker movies aren’t usually my thing (especially two in a row), but this flick interests me if only for seeing the way in which West Germany dealt with the controversial subject, as the American Cinematheque’s entry writes, of the movie’s “bitter depiction of a nation in the grip of defeat, lawlessness, and lingering anti-Semitism.” This is gonna be a heavy one, isn’t it?
The Naked City (1948)
For some reason, I always get Night and the City (1950) and The Naked City confused. I’ve either watched both of them, one of them, or none of them at all. Hopefully this time I’ll be able to finally confirm that I’ve seen this Jules Dassin classic!
Hardly a Criminal/Apenas un delincuente (1949)
In film noir, if a plot summary reveals that a character is *trying* to get caught to exploit a loophole in the system, like this movie does, you know it’s all downhill from there. I liked the use of a similar idea in 1956’s Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, so I’m intrigued at what complications the plan in this Argentinian movie will bring.
Gun Crazy (1950)
What better way to spend Friday the 13th than with this B-classic? Gun Crazy probably ties The Thin Man (1934) as the film I’ve seen the most in theaters; it’s always exhilarating to watch this doomed romance with an audience. I also just wrote about Gun Crazy for TCM and drove the route in the famous bank robbery scene about six times, so that will be a lot of fun to see on the big screen cause now I know those streets very well!
The Pale Flower
The Pale Flower/Kawaita hana (1964)
Given how the two main characters are described in this noir, it makes perfect sense that The Pale Flower is paired with Gun Crazy. I’m quite curious to see what this type of deadly relationship looked like in Japan circa 1964.
5-Film Noir Marathon
I’ll be sitting out this endurance test the second Saturday of the fest (reason: more gymnastics) but I’m ok with that because 1. I’ve seen most of these movies before, many in theaters and 2. I don’t think I could stick it out for five feature length flicks in a row. I would, however, be down to see the bona fide classic Out of the Past (1947) with the Noir City crowd. And though I believe I've watched The Guilty (1947) at Noir City 2015, if I were around I think I’d find it hard to pass up seeing Bonita Granville portray twins again. Fellow Monograph feature High Tide (1947) stands as the only picture of the bunch I haven’t had the pleasure to witness, and I do have a soft spot for B-noirs shot in LA. OK, so I'd want to see the first three movies. But as for the last two, to be honest, I’ve experienced the WTF bleakness of The Prowler and Try and Get Me (both 1951) previously, so I’m good for a while on those two counts.
SUNDAY 3/15 Matinee
Portrait of Jennie (1948)
This is another well-known American noir that has somehow escaped me all these years. I’ve always known the basic plot, but just reading the Cinematheque description of Jennie as the “restless spirit of a long-dead woman” has me bumping this up to must-see status. (Yeah, probably years too late, but still.)
Girl with Hyacinths/Flicka och hyacinter (1950)
The great Ingmar Bergman called this Swedish noir “perfect.” Yup, that’s all I need to hear to make sure I don’t miss this screening. (Also, I’ve been extremely impressed with the way this year’s programming matches up so well. I mean, two noirs in which a portrait features heavily in the story?! Wow.)
SUNDAY 3/15 Evening
The Spiritualist (1948)
Psychics and mediums are the perfect fodder for film noir, just look at 1947’s Nightmare Alley. (Incidentally, the Cinematheque’s website calls The Spiritualist the “lighter side” of the former film.) I’ve never seen this B-picture, which was shot by the legendary John Alton and features Turhan Bey, Lynn Bari and Cathy O’Donnell. Hopefully this one will be in the stars for me after a long 10 days of movies!
In the Palm of Your Hand/En la palma de tu mano (1949)
See above first line. A fortune teller! An inheritance! Murder! This Mexican noir sounds like a rip-roaring way to end a dark and dangerous whirlwind trip around the world at Noir City Hollywood 22.
If you're attending the festival, let me know in the comments below which movies you're looking forward to seeing the most!