Five Highlights from Noir City Film Festival

Noir City, San Francisco’s annual film noir festival, returns to the Castro Theater January 24 to February 2. For the first time in it’s 12 year run, the festival will feature international films to challenge the widely held idea that Noir is a purely American genre. Here are a few highlights of the 27-film series.

January 24: The Third Man
The festival opens strong with 1949’s The Third Man, voted best British film ever by the British Film Institute in 1999. The film follows a pulp novelist in postwar Vienna as he hunts for an old friend who has become a notorious black marketeer. The screenplay was written by novelist Graham Greene, best known for his short story “The Destructors.”. This film is considered one of the best in the genre and it’s a classic example of the “high noir” style.

January 26: Drunken Angel
Sunday marks Japan’s contribution to the genre with a double feature of films from Akira Kurosawa. The first of the two, Drunken Angel, is notable for being the first of 16 film collaborations between Kurosawa and actor Toshiro Mifune. In it, an uneasy friendship is formed between an alcoholic doctor and a yakuza thug (played by Mifune) after the doctor saves the gangster’s life. That is until the return of Mifune’s former boss leads to a tragic turn.

January 27: The Murderers are Among Us
This German film takes place in post WWII Berlin. A doctor haunted by his past of service to the Nazis falls in love with a camp survivor. Unfortunately, when the doctor runs into his former commanding officer, their relationship is threatened by his desire for revenge. This movie is historically significant as it is the first German film to address the effects and traumas of WWII. It is also notable as the first Truemerfilm, a film style where the bombed-down rubble of former cities was used as settings in order to bring the reality of civilian survivors to the screen.

January 28: Death is a Caress
In this Norwegian film a young, recently engaged, mechanic becomes involved with a married socialite after she brings in her car for repair. Their turgid love affair, however, is doomed to be a brief one. This film is notable as one of the only films in the genre to have a female director. In this film we get to see a familiar noir plot through the female gaze.

January 31: The Black Vampire
This Argentine work presents a “feminist” reworking of Fritz Lang’s classic M. While M follows a detective’s search through Berlin to find a child killer, The Black Vampire focuses on the mothers of children being preyed on by a deranged pedophile on the streets of Buenos Aires. Like Death is a Caress, this film is interesting in that it uses a woman’s perspective with this traditionally masculine genre. Also, this screening marks the first time this film has ever been shown in the United States.

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