January 24, 2011

The Noir City Report

Filed under: Guest Comment — Tags: , , , — Bob Patterson @ 3:50 pm

During an intense effort to convince a Conservative friend that he should listen to some of Mike Malloy’s radio shows, we suddenly realized that we had earned the right to take a short break, so we hopped on a bus and headed out for the Ninth Annual Noir City Film Festival in San Francisco. A nostalgic trip back in time to an earlier era when all Hollywood movies reinforced the American principle that the bad guys always get caught would be therapeutic. All the classic examples of the film noir genre were made before some nefarious subversive intellectuals (AKA dirty commies?) were able to get the Hayes code repealed and start making movies hinting that bankers had hearts of stone and that only crooks and liars, not true red-blooded altruistic American patriots, run for public office.

The theme for this year’s event is: “Who’s crazy now?” and all 24 examples of the noir genre being shown tell the story of a protagonist who is either insane or suspected of being insane. Republicans would perceive the movie event as a preview of the next Democratic Party convention to select a Presidential nominee.

The first installment of the film festival presented the double feature of “High Wall,” and “Stranger on the Third Floor.” The second film is credited with the distinction of being the first appearance of a movie that would be labeled as “film noir.” It featured some genius examples of black and white cinematography that included images of shadows to tell the story. It included a surrealistic dream sequence as did many subsequent examples of quality noir. The leading man is falsely arrested for murder and his frail does the detective work necessary to find a suspicious stranger and thus clear her man.

The Saturday matinee was up next. “Strangers in the Night” tells the story of a crazy old lady and her efforts to control the life of a wounded war veteran.

Then they showed “Gaslight,” the 1944 film featuring an Academy Award Winning (AKA the Oscar™) performance by Ingrid Bergman. Spoiler warning: If you haven’t seen this stunning mystery, there will be some plot surprises revealed below. In it a young singer, Paula Alquist (Ingrid Berman) falls under the control of a man who exudes charm and savoir faire. They get married and she begins to manifest examples of memory loss. Her husband gives her a family heirloom broach and she immediately loses it. It reminded this columnist of how the liberals have lost their memory about the news stories that described how the airplane that had hit the Pentagon was painstakingly reassembled in a hanger in Langley Virginia, and how that provided valuable clues linking the perps to Saddam Hussein.

The wife continues to have distressing examples of losing touch with reality despite her husband’s constant efforts to remind her of the truth. The husband, Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer), reminded this reviewer of Donald Rumsfeld. When they clash over a chance to go to a party, he reluctantly relents and is mortified when she breaks down in tears at the event. (I’m sure that, in these more compassionate times, some effeminate guys would assert that she was merely showcasing her softer side and not manifesting emotional instability as her husband maintained.)

Just as the husband is about to take steps to have his wife committed to an insane asylum, a Scotland Yard fellow steps in and proves that a crime has taken place and that the husband is a bigamist, a murderer, and was after some valuable jewelry.
At that point, we became obsessed with the idea that we should rush back to our pad in Berkeley and do the necessary key strokes to produce a column that compares what the husband did to what the Bush Administration did to the conspiracy theory nuts who thought they understood reality and that the highly paid government staff workers did not.

By early Sunday morning, we realized that it was senseless to worry about things such as:
How did the US Army lose Osama in the Torra Borra mountains?
Did Building 7 just fall down?
Aren’t the electronic voting machines unhackible?
Isn’t it best for a conservative majority Supreme Court to decide close elections?
If there is more than one film noir film festivals in the USA, why isn’t there a vampire film festival?
Years and years from now, if someone does start a vampire film festival, and if Dick Cheney is selected as guest of honor, what will the curmudgeonly Democrats say that means?

Sunday the twin bill was “A Double Life” which won the lead actor, Ronald Colman another one of those gold statue awards for acting, and “Among the Living” which was an obscure gem notable for several different reasons. The second film featured Francis Farmer and Rita Hayward. In it, Americans were depicted as having a lynch mob mentality, which we now know happens only when justice involves national security factors such as the WikiLeaks case.

We chatted briefly with the Czar of Noir, Eddie Muller, who is an author and the event host. Was one of the fans who spoke to him, Freddy Francisco the former columnist known as “Mr. San Francisco”? Unless that fellow has the life expectancy statistics of a vampire it would be impossible for it to have been the guy Mr. Hearst fired personally two different times.

Noir fans who can’t wait until the Los Angeles event from March 31 to April 17, later this year, might enjoy the Film Preservation Blogathon (For the Love of Film [Noir]) starting on February 14 being hosted by Ferdy on Films and The self –Styled Siren.

The Film Noir Foundation has been working with the UCLA Film and Television Archive to preserve noir movies which are in danger of disappearing from contemporary culture (like a tiger in the smoke?).

We realized that the World’s Laziest Journalist may have become overworked in his efforts to win the debate with the conservative friend and, perhaps, the columnist needs a bigger and better bit of divertissement than the Noir City event. We have noticed that a new film playing in Berkeley is titled “Nuremburg.” Maybe it’s a travelogue? Doesn’t Germany have the highest excellent Quality Automobile Museum rating of any country in the entire world?

Maybe a trip there to see those tourist attractions would take our mind off Bush and our misperception that he has done a bad thing by approving waterboarding? Yes! We’ll get our mind right, boss! We’ll start with a trip to downtown Berkeley to see that travelogue.

What about a travelogue and a fine meal? What is chef Lecter serving at his world famous restaurant tonight?

Speaking of conflicting points of view, we are anxiously awaiting the return of Roger Ebert to the TV screens of America, even though the only movie critic ever to win a Pulitzer Prize did fail to grasp reality in his review of Van Wilder.

Which quote doesn’t belong?
“Tell, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up!”
“Let’s see, three times 35 – is a hundred and five. I’ll bet you 105,000 dollars that you go to sleep before I do.”
“There was another key . . .”
“How many shots did he fire . . .”
“We have proof that there are WMD’s in Iraq.”

Now, if our disk jockey can find the records he seems to have lost, he will play the theme song from “Laura,” the Vertigo soundtrack album, and “The Ballad of Lucy Jordon.” We have to go and Buy War Bonds today. Have a “if it looks suspicious; report it” type week.

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