The big irony in play four years later is that sources indicate that after a successful virtual series in November, Eddie is now seriously contemplating showing a whole bunch of social problem noirs as part of what might well be a virtual noir festival spread over 2021.
In the most recent NC e-zine (as reported in the Blackboard item on 12/1), Eddie turned around some cynical observations made in 2018 about the need to revisit such films (and the events involving HUAC, etc. which managed to swirl around the folks involved in making them), but can we expect to actually see a full-fledged lineup that goes toe-to-toe with the raspy demands of your "favorite" intransigent leftist? The timing seems strange--we vote out the proto-fascist (whose fingernails may yet remain visible for a few more weeks in the White House after they pull the rest of him out of there...) and NOW we "educate the masses" (many of whom have been gaslighted into believing that the election was somehow rife with fraud...)?
Eddie spent much of 2020 using films related to Nazis/Nazism as a proxy for social problem noir (as we see it, "social problem" means something that is still currently plaguing society, as opposed to period stories depicting past efforts to undermine/destroy freedoms) but it's still a stretch to do a series that is so concentrated on that theme. Possibly the thought is that since it's virtual, it will work better than if these "eat your vegetables" type of films were part of a "live" series, where people expect to have "fun" and not be "preached at."
Of course, none of this is a done deal--and Eddie's knees have been known to be a bit wobbly WRT this area, so...stay tuned. The most interesting aspect of the four-years-ago post reprised below is the idea of a series based on screenwriters--an area with which Eddie is supposed to be highly simpatico, since he was writing crime fiction at the time he started up his noir festival activities. From my perspective, THAT is the angle he should pursue...and he can sneak in "the vegetables" without ordering anyone to consume them.
Some kind of announcement regarding all this may be coming soon...maybe. Meanwhile, stay safe out there and cook up plenty of popcorn for the big show on January 6!
No "groove" for social problem noirs? Especially if you won't show them!!!
Posted by Don Malcolm on 2/9/2017, 2:57 pm
Edited by Don Malcolm on 2/10/2017, 1:02 am
Eddie Muller on Facebook a week ago, indirectly responding to the idea presented to him (via several modes of communication...) that current times call for a more concerted look at how film noir speaks to social concerns:
Life is an adventure. Film is fun. And it's also deep and serious and noble and life-affirming. It was not easy to maintain all this during NOIR CITY 15, which coincided with the worst political debacle of my lifetime (and I'm old enough now to have lived through a few). But in the end, it seemed that the most vital reaction was to stay the course, not be swayed, and maintain the groove that has become essential for so many loyal and savvy film fans. The battle is on, but I don't want it to contaminate those things we cherish—which I firmly believe will outlast the ugliness of petty despots. We will fight, but not lose sight of the better and brighter things that make our lives worth living.
“Better and brighter things”?—like those TCM Wine Club™ commercials, for example…
“Maintain(ing) the groove”? How could showing CROSSFIRE and FORCE OF EVIL destroy “the groove” (W-ETF that is…)??
“Not be swayed”? By what? Were there other unnamed compatriots urging Eddie to more directly tie film noir to its critiques of corruption and totalitarian tendencies in American society? As if showing such films would “bring out the beast” and create an insurrection inside the Castro or something?!
“…not contaminate those things we cherish”?? Like what—HEIST films, for Crissakes??!
Not addressing (or even alluding to) the core issues via the films in the noir canon that address those core issues doesn’t sound like someone actually acknowledging that a "battle is on"—it sounds more like someone running away from the fight as fast as possible.
EM would have looked prescient and on-point if he had scheduled two social-problem noirs as a free event on the Closing Day of NC15. As we said, the signs were there that something like this would have been (at a minimum) “noteworthy” as early as mid-December, when the NC15 schedule was announced. If nothing else, it would have been a terrific litmus test to see if people would come out to see these films. Instead, he looks (and sounds) like the 21st century version of a “limousine liberal.”
The opportunity still exists to show some of these films in LA during March, which will not be a “heist fest” (that lineup is scheduled for later in the year). The following “social problem noirs” have never been screened at NC/SF: CROSSFIRE, LOST BOUNDARIES, THE LAWLESS, THE WELL, OPEN SECRET, THE UNDERWORLD STORY. The last time a “social problem noir” has been screened at NC: TRY AND GET ME, at NC11. The FNF restoration of THE PROWLER was screened nine years ago (NC6). Polonsky’s FORCE OF EVIL and Losey’s remarkable 1951 remake of M were last shown at NC3 twelve years ago—though they did show the more recent Library of Congress restoration in Chicago a few years back. (Which begs the question--if the LoC thinks Losey's M is significant enough to restore, why is the FNF so reticent to screen it? Is there really such a burning need to show MEET DANNY WILSON and OUTSIDE THE WALL instead??)
There is only one really “favored” film in this category for Eddie: THIEVES’ HIGHWAY, which he’s shown three times at NC (1, 4, 10).
For goodness’ sake, Eddie is pals with Ed Brubaker, who’s the nephew of CROSSFIRE scenarist John Paxton. Eddie has shown what is clearly the least of Paxton’s 40s output—CRACK-UP—three times at NC, while never screening either CROSSFIRE or CORNERED and showing MURDER, MY SWEET just once (at NC3, in 2005). What gives?
To take that in a different direction, why has there not been a festival organized around the screenwriters/novelists? Sure, Eddie did a Woolrich festival at a satellite location—that involved 10 films. But a full-fledged program could easily be organized to present classic noir from this standpoint—and it would be a criminal oversight to omit Paxton from that. Here’s just an off-the-top-of-one’s-head listing using actual screenwriters, not novelists (with asterisks placed by those who penned “social problem noirs”):
Bill Bowers (← the one writer who has been singled out by NC thus far for especial praise...)
Jonathan Latimer (Eddie has sung his praises on TCM)
John C. Higgins
Henry Blankfort* (OPEN SECRET-THE UNDERWORLD STORY)
Ernest Lehman (if only for the ultimate in nasty double bills, SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS followed by WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?)
Now you can add or subtract to or subdivide-and-conquer this list, but it’s a good place to start for an organizing principle and would/could certainly have a “groove” (??) even if it just happened to show some “social problem noirs” along the way.
Clearly some folks in the business consider these type of films to be “box office poison,” but the evidence for that isn’t there, because none of them has actually screened any in the past ten years!
Whatever is exactly behind this is mysterious in nature, but a good bit of this is summed up in the slippery hipsterism that envelops Eddie’s comment, up at the top of these “reflections”: “Film is fun. It is also deep and serious and life-affirming.” Apparently, however, it’s now supposed to be fun first, and all the rest of that “stuff” later. The long-brewing hipsterist consumerism of cinephilia is clearly crippling film’s ability to be “deep and serious,” and writings such as these indicate that Eddie feels justified in mothballing films that address actual social problems. Twelve years ago such was not the case…all of which really forces me to double down on my concluding remarks in my 1/22 post.
I would certainly think Eddie is bullet-proof enough at this point that showing some of these films could not possibly be a risk to him, his livelihood, and his “groove” in any way, shape or form—unless teetotaling “petty despots” secretly control TCM.
Meanwhile, props to Elliot Lavine, who—while he is no especial fan of the “civics lesson” approach to film noir (reflecting a widespread attitude that to me really needs some serious re-evaluation)—is seeing fit to make a comment on the times by screening THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE in his highly-anticipated initial programming venture up in Portland next month. While we’d like to see a couple more of those types of films in the series, one is still infinitely better than none. Such an action on his part keeps me confident that Elliot, like not quite enough of us, doesn’t need a weatherman to see which way the wind is blowing…