Noir City Emerges From the Shadows
Film festival delves into film noir deep cuts
After World War II ended, American films began to be shown again in France, where film critics and writers noted a darker, more cynical attitude in many of them, coining the term film noir. That phrase at first described just a small grouping of films, many of them classics: The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Killers (1946) Out of the Past (1947), Detour (1945), and In a Lonely Place (1950) among them. Film noir repertory series and later VHS and DVD sold, many willing to take a chance exploring any work so labeled because many were really excellent. Gaining popularity over the years, it became an all too liberally applied stamp to a number of films that barely matched the attributes. Chronicle publisher Nick Barbaro once argued that any black-and-white film was a noir, and some color as well. The marketers must have heard him, and believed. It's no surprise that the Noir City Film Festival, hosted this year by the Alamo Ritz, is not only faithful, but features some of the more neglected titles of the genre.
Take a chance on any of these titles, but two of the best were directed by the somewhat overlooked Robert Siodmak. The Killers is the finest adaptation of Hemingway on film, and Criss Cross depicts a moral universe so corrupt that only the naive are decent, but oh, so easily done in. For the hardcore fan, Phil Karlson's Kansas City Confidential is definitely worth it. Whereas Siodmak is stylish and eloquent, Karlson is brutal and street-wise. Not as good as the gut-punch pulp of The Phenix City Story, which I saw too young, and from which I have never fully recovered, but Karlson's ruthless cinema delivers. (And while not in the Noir City series, if you haven't seen In a Lonely Place or Out of the Past ....)
Noir City Film FestivalAll screenings at the Alamo Ritz
Armored Car Robbery (1950) Saturday, 7pm.
The Asphalt Jungle (1950) Saturday, 1pm.
Criss Cross (1949) Saturday, 4pm.
Kansas City Confidential (1952) Saturday, 9:30pm.
Cash on Demand (1961) Sunday, 8pm.
The Killing (1956) Sunday, 2:30pm.
Rififi (1954) Sunday, 5pm.
Violent Saturday (1950) Sunday, noon.