During a mostly shabby performance across 2017 while trying to recover from "heist-itis," Eddie Muller hit paydirt with his Noir Alley show, making him a much bigger name than he'd ever been.
This led him to go back to the basics--which, when accompanied by the national exposure, has paid off well in the box office. Noir fans were relieved to be away from big concepts and flocked to a fairly threadbare collection of films in SF built around the A-B concept.
A more focused version of that format concluded in LA last week, buoyed by the rediscovery of two films that are among the very last to emerge from total obscurity--THE TURNING POINT (1952) and THE SCARLET HOUR (1956). The former, as most credible critics have noted, is the real rediscovery and I predict right here that ten years from now it will be seen as the film noir most elevated by rediscovery and restoration. All the hype for WOMAN ON THE RUN and TOO LATE FOR TEARS--solid films without one ounce of social significance--will dissipate in the face of what THE TURNING POINT reveals about the inner workings of America.
Assuming, of course, that we survive our current crisis and remain a functioning democracy.
And there is more good news, one that's not quite as surprising as it might have been given the stiff-arm responses given to several of us when we strongly suggested that the open Sunday matinees at 2017's NC SF be given over to free screenings of "social outcry" noir.
After attempting to shore up his bonafides by namechecking Abe Polonsky in a cranky essay in the NC 16 SF program, Eddie referenced the sociopolitical blight through the lens of cynical resignation, reaching the nadir of his discussion with the unfortunate but revealing phrase "barroom not classroom." It seemed that he'd thrown down another gauntlet for ignoring and bypassing the need to show "social outcry" noir--but there was a slight crack in the fašade at NC 16 when he included THE UNDERWORLD STORY in the festival lineup.
Then, in LA, we got THE TURNING POINT (though it was unfortunate that the usually date-conscious FNF honchos overlooked the fact that they could have scheduled the first screening of the restored film two days earlier, when it would have coincided with lead actor William Holden's one hundredth birthday). And we also got, folliowing swiftly on the heels of a Losey double bill in SF at Elliot Lavine's DARK SIDE OF THE DREAM series (THE LAWLESS, followed by M), a triple feature's worth of Losey on the penultimate evening.
All of which leads to what is now a seriously buried lede--the screening schedule for the first-ever Noir City Boston, which will be held at the Brattle Theatre from June 8-10. It's couched in the usual A-B contrivance (also in effect next month in Austin, where the program looks like a cutdown version of NC SF), but that format still permits significant films to be shown if the showman will simply program them and step aside. Friday night starts somewhat unpromisingly--but, as we like to say...wait for it:
Friday June 8
THE GLASS KEY/STREET OF CHANCE
Saturday June 9
(matinee) MURDER MY SWEET/STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT
(evening) THE KILLERS/SO DARK THE NIGHT
Sunday June 10
(matinee) FORCE OF EVIL/THE GUILTY
(evening) TRY AND GET ME/SHAKEDOWN
To be frank, I can't say that any of the double bill combinations do much for me. (And the fact that the Brattle suggested that Eddie "hand-picked" these sounds disturbingly like the twaddle one sees at hipper-than-thou bar-and-grills which natter on about "hand-crafted cocktails.") I think the films on Sat/Sun would make for more interesting viewing if the "A's" and the "B's" were shown together--for example, STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT/SO DARK THE NIGHT as the matinee, with MURDER MY SWEET and THE KILLERS in the evening. But that could easily be construed as quibbling, so I won't lean on that any harder than I just did.
And, of course, a double bill of FORCE OF EVIL/TRY AND GET ME would be one of the most devastating evenings one could have with film noir in a movie theatre--or, possibly, in a gulag. Eddie probably figures that folks should be let down easy after the intensity of those two films, but what's risked by that approach is that the "B's" will seem lightweight and ineffectual if they're shown after two of the most powerful noirs ever made.
But--again--let's not quibble. Let's just be relieved that after seventeen months of foot-dragging and downright strange excuses, Eddie has finally gotten in touch with his inner Weatherman and knows which way the wind is blowing.
We could use better news out of Washington, of course, but at least we have some good news coming from Boston.