Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Rare Noir is Good to Find 2, San Francisco's Second International Film Noir Festival - Coming in May

For four days in May, twelve mostly rare films noir from eleven countries around the world will screen at San Francisco's Roxie Theater in the heart of the city's Mission District. The event, A Rare Noir is Good to Find 2, is the second international film noir festival to be presented at the Roxie by Mid-Century Productions, the company that has already staged 3 annual French film noir festivals there. Says Don Malcolm, Mid-Century's veteran noir programmer, "As astonishing as it is to know that there are hundreds of French noirs awaiting rediscovery on American movie screens, it's even more amazing to see just how prominent film noir was in just about every significant filmmaking nation in the years following World War II."

Camino del Infierno (The Road to Hell) from Mexico, 1951

Malcolm's 3rd French noir festival last fall was a real delight, and an eye-opener for those of us familiar primarily with American noir. Pierre Chenal's Le dernier tournant, the first screen adaptation of The Postman Always Rings Twice, was especially anticipated and didn't disappoint (in fact, this reviewer soon after decided to seek out and watch the 1943 Italian version, Visconti's Ossessione). And there were the amazing films of Robert Hossein. It  was a very fine program and the upcoming international festival, which, for obvious reasons, will feature no French films, promises to be just as rich with exceptional and unusual films.

Odd Man Out from the UK, 1947

The best known among the films set to screen at A Rare Noir is Good to Find 2 are British director Carol Reed's Odd Man Out (1947), the movie that soon brought James Mason his chance for a film career in the U.S, and Bitter Rice (1949) from Italy. Both films are now part of the Criterion Collection and out on DVD and Blu-ray. But the majority of films, from countries like Egypt, Mexico, Switzerland, Poland, Brazil, Czechoslovakia, Belgium, Japan and South Korea, are entirely unknown to American audiences. Malcolm believes viewers will discover that "...film noir was an essential cinematic modality all over the world for nearly twenty years following World War II, and that filmmakers often rose to the occasion and made their best work when they were working within that framework."

A Rare Noir is Good to Find 2 runs from Friday through Monday, May 5 - May 8. For more information:

The Roxie Theater: (415) 863.1087, http://www.roxie.com
Mid-Century Productions: http://midcenturyproductions.com

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Nitrate Experience, BLACK NARCISSUS at TCMFF 2017

Kathleen Byron and Deborah Kerr in Black Narcissus, a production of The Archers

One of the truly sublime experiences (and there were many) of this year's TCM Classic Film Festival was the joy of viewing a nitrate print of The Archers' (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) great masterpiece Black Narcissus (1947) on the big screen at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre.

Black Narcissus is a film that dazzles, one of the most spectacular examples of mid-century Technicolor films ever produced. I could hardly imagine that its often voluptuous, frequently Vermeer-like imagery could possibly look any better than I had previously seen. Little did I know that I would be transported to a realm of color that could be called other-worldly. The adjective "awesome" has been entirely worn out for decades, and so I'll simply say that the impact of seeing the film's lush Technicolor photography on nitrate-based film stock was awe-inspiring.  

A climactic scene from Black Narcissus

Black Narcissus, the story of a group of nuns who are sent high into the Himalayas to open a convent school but are undone by the alien and seductive atmosphere, was filmed by master cinematographer Jack Cardiff. Cardiff would win the 1947 Oscar for color cinematography for his efforts and go on to film The Archers' next great masterpiece, The Red  Shoes (1948). He would later take on Hitchcock's Under Capricorn (1949), Huston's The African Queen (1951), Albert Lewin's Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951), Mankiewicz's The Barefoot Contessa (1954) and Laurence Olivier's The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), among many other films.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

OOAK Dolls, Pt. 2: Repaint Artist Noel Cruz


Noel Cruz is one of the most highly acclaimed among OOAK doll repaint artists on the scene. A Filipino-American based in Anaheim, California, Cruz’s reputation rests upon his talent for fashioning repainted dolls that bear amazing likeness to their subjects. His specialty is character and celebrity dolls, dolls produced by manufacturers like Tonner and Franklin Mint that Cruz strips of their original paint and repaints with infinite care – and with stunning results. His creations are much sought after, and some have sold for more than $2,000 via his EBay store.

The Elizabeth Taylor doll shown above depicts her as Angela Vickers, the character she portrayed in A Place in the Sun (1951). Cruz's transformation of the original factory doll is dramatic. The original bears some passing resemblance to the actress, but is essentially lifeless, where Cruz's makeover is uncannily lifelike.