I can’t speak to how Foster’s attitude towards the vast expanse of noir has changed over the decades, but because of the almost 20 years of Noir City festivals, Eddie Muller’s stance towards noir has expanded beyond “Dark City: The Lost World Of Film Noir”. Most people who attend the noir festival aren’t coming primarily to see IVY, SO EVIL MY LOVE or THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE, with their 19th century dress, Victorian furnishings and horse drawn carriages. Most come to screenings to see the cynical hard bitten guy in the trench coat, the suit with the black shirt and white tie, or some babe in a print dress with her hair piled up high, snapping gum and talking tough. These are the items that first attract most of us to noir, and still remain with the casual moviegoer. However, once you are hooked by the deceit, dread, despair, and the sense of entrapment of events spiraling out of control (fate sticking out its foot to trip you up), many of us become infected with the peculiar virus that is noir. We come to realizes that noir just isn’t a pictorial representation of the existential agony of the best of Goodis and Woolrich, but it’s expansive beyond the urban cityscape and prisons, and infects the period films, “women’s” pictures, westerns, and yes, even spy films:-)
When I first wrote my book, I was hamstrung by the films that were readily available on TV and at film archives like the PFA. Once you have absorbed almost all of the domestic noir product you yearn for more. I still enjoy the 40s style of THE BIG SLEEP with it’s wise cracks and double dealing babes, or Brad Galt saying “I’m all dead inside. I’m backed up in a dark corner and I don’t know who’s hitting me”. It took me years to discover noir beyond the US shores. Once I did, my eyes were opened (and my eyelids peeled back) to discover that this “virus” is universal. In fact, it may not even be Americans that “invented” film noir, but the French (I’m sure Don can elaborate here). Even Eddie Muller, who started the festival with films that were fairly easy to find and absorb decided to go international. You just can’t keep showing the same 250 or so domestic noirs, especially when there is so much more to be discovered. No doubt foreign noirs have their own slang which those of us who aren’t multi-lingual miss out on. We are “prisoners” of the subtitles, but still the variety of French, Scandinavian, Mexican, Argentine, German, Italian, Japanese noir, etc. is extraordinary. The late Spencer Selby wrote about it and soon we will have a tome on French noir, and the hits just keep on coming as more foreign noirs come out both commercially and in the grey market with home made subs.