Friday, May 3, 2019

For Those Who Think Noir: Where to get your film noir fix this Spring

Sketch for Mildred Pierce (1945) by Warner Bros. Art Director Anton Grot

Don Malcolm, long-time festival programmer of film noir from every corner of the globe, is of the strong opinion that "any time of year is a good time for noir." I agree. And so, though it is sunshiny and balmy where I live, with blossoms blooming everywhere, I have scoured the Internet and my email inbox to see what's to be found lurking in the dim-lit dark alley of film noir this Spring.


Every year for the past  17 years, film noir festival season kicks off in late January with Noir City San Francisco, a 10-day full-on carnival of noir at the city’s historic Castro Theater. This year the festival theme was “Film Noir in the '50s” and the January 25 – February 3 program included 24 classics, among them  Angel Face (1953), Pickup on South Street (1953), Kiss Me Deadly (1955), Killer’s Kiss (1955) and Touch of Evil (1958). Following the San Francisco launch, a string of satellite Noir City fests rolls out, city by city, around the country. Each of these events carries the same theme and screens some or all of the films introduced in San Francisco. Noir City Seattle spanned February 15 – 21 and Hollywood’s 10-day Noir City took place March 29 – April 7. Now comes Noir City Austin, and the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz is set to screen ten shadow-drenched crime thrillers in the Texas capital from May 17 – 19. Moving on after Austin, Noir City will make its way to the Brattle Theatre in Boston for yet one more round of noir, from June 7 – 9. The final Noir City event is set for Chicago in September.

Alan K. Rode and Victoria Mature will be in Palm Springs
Another long-standing noir jubilee, the annual Arthur Lyons’ Film Noir Festival, celebrates its 20th year next weekend in the Southern California oasis of Palm Springs. The Camelot Theatre will host the four-day revel, May 9 - 12. Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation (and author of the recent Michael Curtiz bio) emcees with help from the likes of Victoria Mature (daughter of Victor) and others. Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter (1955) is the opener, to be introduced by Rode and actress Kathy Garver, one of the child actors who appeared in the film (she also starred in the '60s - '70s TV hit Family Affair). Here’s the full slate of 12 timeless noirs on the Lyons program.

Also next weekend - in San Francisco – an exciting four-day exploration of French film noir from the '30s - '60s at the Roxie Theater. Running from May 10 – 13, the festival known as “The French Had a Name for It 5.5” (mid-way between the 5th and 6th annual festivals) comes courtesy of Don Malcolm's MidCentury Productions, curators of the finest in worldwide noir. This evocative 2-minute promo gives an idea of what to expect from the 13 fascinating films on the bill...

The French Had a Name for It 5.5 from MidCentury Productions on Vimeo

French noir is as dark and delicious as its American cousin and this series is a piece de résistance - showcasing stars like Simone Signoret, Jeanne Moreau, Jean Gabin, Yves Montand and Lino Ventura, and directors like Renoir, Duvivier, Clouzot and Costa-Gavras. Don’t fear the subtitles! The Midcentury website has all the details.

James Mason in Odd Man Out (1947)
Looking east, to the Buffalo, New York, area, the Dipson Theater’s Eastern Hills Cinema in Williamsville currently has a noir series in progress, Noir Essentials: Departures. This monthly Wednesday night special feature began in March and runs through July, presenting a total of five noirs, each with travel pivotal to the action. Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951) screened in March, Michael Curtiz’s Breaking Point (1951) in April, and coming this month, on May 15, is Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out (1947) starring James Mason. June brings The Lady from Shanghai (1947) and in July, Frank Borzage’s Moonrise (1948).

During the month of May only, in Sacramento, California, the Tower Theater presents Film Noir Wednesday, featuring legendary A-noirs from Hollywood: Mildred Pierce (1945), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Double Indemnity (1944) and The Lady From Shanghai (1947). Though we may have watched these uber-classics many times over on smaller screens, there's nothing like the big-screen theater experience...

Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce (1945)

Not interested in setting foot outside your door but still wanting your share of noir? The recently launched Criterion Channel streaming service is now spotlighting Columbia noir, with several films from the Columbia Pictures vault available. Gloria Grahame fans will delight in knowing that In a Lonely Place (1950) and The Big Heat (1953) are both part of the Columbia collection.

Lee Marvin and Gloria Grahame in Fritz Lang's The Big Heat (1953)

Meanwhile, on Turner Classic Movies, "Czar of Noir" Eddie Muller continues his long-running, regularly scheduled Noir Alley series. Click here for a complete listing of the films and dates scheduled through the month of May.

Cagney in White Heat (1949) on Noir Alley May 11 and 12

And...for those who aren’t into streaming or don’t have access to premium providers, there’s yet another option. The Movies! TV network, a commercial channel widely available on cable across the US, offers classic film noir through two ongoing series: Noir to Die For all day Thursdays and on Sundays, beginning at 5pm, Sunday Night Noir. Visit the Movies! network site, select “Showcases,” and you’ll find the current schedules for Noir to Die For and Sunday Night Noir.

Lastly, for those who like to read, the Classic Movie Blog Association recently wrapped its annual Spring Blogathon. This year the subject was Femmes and Hommes Fatale of Film Noir...Click here for links to the 26 participating CMBA member blogs and their entries.


I hope this is enough to keep noir friends and fiends occupied and happy over the next few weeks, though I know there's really no such thing as "enough noir."


  1. The promotional video is terrific – every shot they've used is beautiful and intriguing. It shows how stylish film noir was, and still is. What a terrific festival this will be!

    1. Happily, opening night was a sell-out and the rest of the program will more than likely be, too. I'll be in the house on Monday night to see two very different takes on George Simenon's Inspector Maigret. More on that later.