Fandor’s resident film noir expert Anne Hockens previews one of San Francisco’s most beloved – and endlessly surprising – cinema experiences.
NOIR CITY 12 is going where no other NOIR CITY festival has gone before—all over the world.
This year’s flagship NOIR CITY festival at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre (January 24-February 2) comprises 27 films from the post-World War II era. The films hail from France, Mexico, Japan, Argentina, Germany, Spain, Norway, and Britain, as well as Hollywood. Collectively, they challenge the idea that film noir is a strictly American art form. Joe Talbot’s astounding trailer for NOIR CITY 12 perfectly illustrates this point.
The festival’s international thrust will bring both a new perspective and previously unseen films to regular attendees and the international programming will hopefully attract some new festival patrons into the world of noir. Two films that have never even screened in the U.S. will be presented. The stunning 1952 Argentine anthology film Never Open That Door (No abras nunca esa puerta) was adapted from short stories by American pulp noir master Cornell Woolrich. The Black Vampire (El vampiro negro) made in Buenos Aires in 1953, is a remake of Fritz Lang’s intense classic M, and its star, Olga Zubarry, was known as “The Argentine Marilyn Monroe.” Both films make their American cinema debut in brand new subtitled 35mm prints funded by the Film Noir Foundation (the presenters of NOIR CITY), produced under the supervision the man responsible for rediscovery of the complete Metropolis, Fernando Martin Peña.
The name Akira Kurosawa doesn’t immediately bring to mind film noir. However, although better known for his Samurai film, Kurosawa often vividly chronicled contemporary urban life in his films. His two forays into noir will play on a double bill during NOIR CITY. In his 1948 film Drunken Angel (Yoidore tenshi), an alcoholic doctor saves a tubercular gangster after he’s shot. The two forge a cautious friendship, but dissension then tragedy come when the young mobster’s boss is released from prison. In 1949’s Stray Dog (Nora inu), a veteran cop guides a young policeman through the underbelly of post-war Tokyo in search of the younger man’s stolen gun. Toshiro Mifune and Takashi Shimura, two of Kurosawa’s favorite actors, co-star in both films.
While the festival’s international programming is a radical shift, the mission of NOIR CITY remains constant, to bring restored 35mm classics back to the big screen where they belong. The raison d’être for NOIR CITY is film preservation. The proceeds from the festival fund the FNF’s year-round efforts to preserve films noir for future generations. You’ll see the results of past year’s generosity when the FNF’s latest restoration project, Too Late for Tears makes its re-premiere Saturday night, January 25. Don’t miss what FNF president Eddie Muller calls, “The best film noir you’ve never seen.” The film features two noir icons at their most ruthless, Lizabeth Scott and Dan Duryea. It will play on a double-bill with another recently restored 35mm rarity, Ida Lupino’s The Hitch-hiker, the only American film noir directed by a woman.
Visit NoirCity.com for the full line-up of films, program notes and ticketing information.