So I am pained just a bit in reporting that the schedule for the 2017 edition of the Art Lyons Noir Festival in Palm Springs is riddled with interest but muddled in execution.
Here is the schedule:
Thursday, May 11th
7:30 pm HOLLOW TRIUMPH (1948) Guest: Monika Henried
Q&A, and Opening Night gala with reception after the film
Friday, May 12th
10:00 am THE CHASE (1966)
1:00 pm SIDE STREET (1950)
4:00 pm ALL THE KINGS MEN (1949)
7:30 pm BLACK ANGEL (1946) Guest: Richard Duryea
Saturday, May 13th
10:00 am SPLIT SECOND (1953)
1:00 pm ADDRESS UNKNOWN (1944)
4:00 pm MEET DANNY WILSON (1951)
7:30 PM CHARLEY VARRICK (1973) Guest Andy Robinson
Sunday, May 14th
10:00 am DESPERATE (1947)
1:00 pm THE BODY SNATCHER (1945) Guest: Sara Karloff
4:00 pm NIGHT AND THE CITY (1950)
Flashes of brilliance are to be found here, but too much of it is burdened by transitions that are either too arbitrary or simply baffling. There's some interesting hope to be found in Sunday's lineup, which deals with three different perspectives on urban environments/atmosphere--and if I were going for just one day it would be this day.
Clustering films that actually have resonance with one another is also desirable, but several opportunities to do so with the lineup don't materialize. If one wants to have Sinatra in a noir in the desert, one should select SUDDENLY (1954) as opposed to MEET DANNY WILSON, a muddled mutt of a script redeemed only by Raymond Burr as a man obsessed with obsession itself. Following the fine ADDRESS UNKNOWN with SUDDENLY would make for a superb little meditation on place and power, giving the first portion of Saturday an actual theme.
The closing film for Saturday, CHARLEY VARRICK, allows for Andy Robinson to make a Q&A appearance, and works as an echo of the "heist" theme that the FNF has been flaunting across the USA thus far in 2017. It's not really close to being the best film out of that bunch, though...I think the fascinating seque for something like this is to be found with ACROSS 110TH ST., where the chance to expand beyond a certain pre-packaged form of cinephilia is at hand--plus one could have a weightier, more socially expansive guest in the form of Yaphet Kotto.
Similarly, a re-ordering on Friday by putting ALL THE KING'S MEN first, followed by THE CHASE (problematic still, but interesting in how some of the southern elements mesh). Then back to urbanism with the highly enjoyable SIDE STREET and onto into the deliriously melodramatic BLACK ANGEL.
So--a lot of good/great films, many reasons to pick & choose, but not the type of programming follow-through that props up the "marathon" format. One of Alan Rode's most interesting interview opportunities occurs with THE BODY SNATCHER--I could see a lot of folks going to that show simply to hear the observations and reminiscences of Sara Karloff.
Finally--I appreciate the fact that there are social issues to be found at or near the surface of several of the selections. The Low Desert audience may not be the "right" place to show FORCE OF EVIL--people have become attached to the consumerist comforts of capitalism in the years since that screening it during a time where crony capitalist excesses are being "baked in" might suck all the air of the room, but ALL THE KINGS' MEN is a decent alternative. True social justice noir is still being shied away from within the walls of the FNF brain trust, but since we may be at this situation for awhile there may be a chance for that to change.
One last afterthought--Opening Night (HOLLOW TRIUMPH) is another example of a film that will leave you highly satisfied if you go only to see it. One hopes that Monika Henreid will take hold of the interview and fill in some blanks concerning the production details for this film and capture her dad's evolving noir sensibility for the benefit of the audience. But for these prices ($125 for a "discount" pass, a totally regressive price "break") it would be great if a thirteenth were scheduled for after the Opening Night Q&A and during the reception--strictly for the "geeks" who loved Art Lyons's "deep-B" programming. On this night, as a 11:00 "late night" special (at a reduced price...) you have a number of Henreid options, but one I like is LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG, Henreid's rather inspired "JD" noir from 1958. That would add back in the one thing that seems to remain MIA in these Art Lyons festivals...