The Noir City film festival returned to the Castro Theater. This year’s theme: heists and bank robberies.
The Film Noir genre is characterized by:
- realism and grit
- hopelessness, disillusionment, and alienation
- narrative driven by psyche, not action
- one avoidable, fated mistake sets the character on the path to ruin
The films I enjoyed:
The thirty-minute jewelry store robbery scene sets the standard for all later films: devoid of dialogue and music, but filled with tension and sweat.
The characters in Rififi and other movies smoke to pass the time during the heist. I would be sad to see someone named Tony “le Stéphanois” check his cell phone in an updated version.
The Killing (1956, USA; trailer)
A nonlinear story that shows the heist from the perspective of each thief.
Some film noir have a happy ending that was clearly not in the original script. The Killing is not that kind of noir.
Stanley Kubrick’s first major film.
The Ladykillers (1955, UK; clip)
A gang executes a perfect caper but kill each other as they avoid murdering the landlady.
Comedy; starring Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers.
Blue Collar (1978, USA; trailer)
I will remember three things about this movie:
- the empathy it invoked
- the circumstances which force them to turn on each other: “They pit the lifers against the new boys, the old against the young, the black against the white.”
- the inventive mechanic in the opening credits: the song pauses to reveal the underlying clanks of the auto plant
Richard Pryor stars in a dramatic role.
Straight Time (1978, USA; trailer)
Dustin Hoffman is released from prison and fails to turn his life around. A reflection on the role of pride in the seemingly-avoidable but fated noir downfall.
Asphalt Jungle (1950, USA; trailer)
The prototype for all later noir heists.
The film features memorable characters, including Marilyn Monroe’s break-out role and a brutish, unrelenting Sterling Hayden.
Cruel Gun Story (1964, Japan)
Jô Shishido’s gangster is the epitome of cool:
- popped collars
- sunglasses inside
- no sunglasses outside
- an alternatively rugged and comical face from the cheek augmentation surgery the actor undertook to boost his tough-guy profile
Everyone dies badly.