COLCOA French fest opens and Noir City Hollywood closes

It’s a busy time for film buffs in Los Angeles.

The COLCOA French Film Festival opens tonight, Monday, April 20, with an elegant reception and the opening night film, a thriller called “A Perfect Man,” directed and co-written by Yann Gozlan and starring Pierre Niney and Ana Girardot.

Pierre Niney plays the wily writer in  “A Perfect Man.”

Pierre Niney plays the wily writer in “A Perfect Man.”

It’s a story of shifting identities as a struggling author stumbles upon a wildly unethical way to make the best-seller list.

With echoes of Patricia Highsmith’s Mr. Ripley, “A Perfect Man” strikes us as a divinely decadent way to kick off this wonderful festival, now in its 19th year.

There is much to see this year (check the COLCOA site for info on free screenings and cool events) and we are counting the days until Friday’s Film Noir Series.

The fest takes place at the Directors Guild of America, 7920 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 90046.

Sunday was the closing day of an essential film fest, for noiristas and others: Noir City Hollywood, presented by the American Cinematheque in collaboration with the Film Noir Foundation. The foundation’s urbane noirphiles Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode were on hand throughout the fest to introduce the movies. This year, they brought another excellent selection (heavy on adaptations of the great master of pulp suspense Cornell Woolrich).

The lineup included a real find: the American debut of three almost unknown but brilliantly done and stunningly visualized film noirs from Argentina: “The Black Vampire” (Roman Vinoly Barreto, 1953), a remake of Fritz Lang’s “M,” and superb adaptations of Woolrich stories in “Never Open That Door” (Carlos Hugo Christensen, 1952) and “If I Should Die Before I Wake” (Christensen, 1952).

Dorothy MacKaill lights up the screen in “Safe in Hell” (1931, William Wellman).

Dorothy MacKaill lights up the screen in “Safe in Hell” (1931, William Wellman).

The fest wrapped up with a four-movie proto-noir marathon:

The Ninth Guest” (1934, Roy William Neill) a mystery with a generous dollop of Deco glam.

Let Us Live” (1939, John Brahm) featuring the great Henry Fonda as a wrongly identified killer and a riveting performance from Maureen O’Sullivan as his girlfriend.

Heat Lightning” (1934, Mervyn LeRoy) a pre-Code delight about two sisters (Aline MacMahon and Ann Dvorak) running a garage and car-repair shop in the desert and ridding the place of rats, such as fleeing criminal and old flame (Preston Foster).

Safe in Hell” (1931, William Wellman) Dorothy MacKaill is unforgettable as a sparkling blonde siren who spends the entire movie fighting off men as she waits in vain on a Caribbean island to be with the guy she truly loves (Donald Cook).

Don Castle was a Clark Gable lookalike.

Don Castle was a Clark Gable lookalike.

My attendance was spotty this year because I had to leave town unexpectedly (such is life for a femme fatale) but my colleague Mike Wilmington caught quite a few.

Other highlights from this year’s fest were: “Woman on the Run,” “The Underworld Story,” “Abandoned,” “Circle of Danger,” “Berlin Express,” “Ride the Pink Horse,” “The Fallen Sparrow,” and “The Guilty” as well as that triple bill of Argentinian film noir.

The closing-weekend party was loads of fun, especially since I won a nifty raffle prize! I definitely needed my drink tickets that night. Why? By the small but mighty curveball in “The Guilty” when the lead character (Don Castle) reveals that he is studying “commercial geography” to land a good job.

What??? Education and hard work to get ahead? Was the movie going to start preaching about the virtues of a work ethic? Aaargh! Thankfully, this was, in fact, a temporary glitch and the character turned out to be crazy-bad.

Phew! I was freaked out there for a moment but everything was just as it should be in Noirville.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Film Noir File: Sit back and enjoy a night with Bogie & Bacall

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

The Film Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir on Turner Classi  c Movies (TCM). The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard). All films without a new review have been covered previously in Film Noir Blonde and can be searched in the FNB archives (at right).

Pick of the Week: Bogie and Bacall night is Tuesday, April 7

“To Have and Have Not” was the couple’s first film together.

“To Have and Have Not” was the couple’s first film together.

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall – the King and Queen of film noir – make for a royally cool evening. First: A documentary-memoir by Bacall, followed by two of the nonpareil pair’s top shows, adapted from books by Ernest Hemingway and David Goodis. Sit back, pour yourself a cold one, and enjoy. And remember: Another vintage Bogart, “Casablanca,” plays (again Sam), Tuesday morning on TCM. (See below.)

2 a.m. (11 p.m.): “Bacall on Bogart” (David Heeley, 1988). A bio-pic gem. Baby on Bogie – and who knew him better?

3:30 a.m. (12:30 a.m.): “To Have and Have Not” (Howard Hawks, 1944).

5:15 a.m. (2:15 a.m.): “Dark Passage” (Delmer Daves, 1947).

Saturday, April 4

Marlene Dietrich

Marlene Dietrich

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Witness for the Prosecution” (Billy Wilder, 1957). “Witness for the Prosecution” (1957, Billy Wilder) From the famous Agatha Christie short story, Billy Wilder expertly fashions one of the screen’s trickiest trial-drama/murder mysteries – with Charles Laughton as the wily, wheelchair-bound barrister, his real-life wife Elsa Lanchester as his long-suffering nurse, and Tyrone Power and Marlene Dietrich as the incendiary couple caught up in a legendary triple-reverse surprise ending.

10:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m.): “Laura” (Otto Preminger, 1944).

12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “Klute” (Alan Pakula, 1971). Jane Fonda as a brainy hooker (her first Oscar-winning performance) being pursued by a psycho killer. Donald Sutherland plays Klute, the cop who tries to help and save her. A classy, first-class neo-noir.

Monday, April 6

“His Kind of Woman” is a tongue-in-cheek noir, down Mexico way.

“His Kind of Woman” is a tongue-in-cheek noir, down Mexico way.

1:45 a.m. (10:45 p.m.): “Macao” (Josef von Sternberg, 1952). Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell strike sultry sparks in this exotic thriller from Howard Hughes’ RKO.

Directed by Josef Von Sternberg, with uncredited reshooting by Nick Ray. Co-starring Gloria Grahame, William Bendix and Thomas Gomez.

3:15 a.m. (12:15 a.m.): “His Kind of Woman” (John Farrow, 1951). Down Mexico way, in a Hollywood-style resort, Jane Russell is his kind of woman. And Robert Mitchum is her kind of man.

Gangster Raymond Burr and overripe actor Vincent Price are our kind of heavies in this breezy, funny tongue-in-cheek noir.

Tuesday, April 7

11:45 a.m. (8:45 a.m.): “Casablanca” (Michael Curtiz, 1942).

4 p.m. (1 p.m.): “Passage to Marseille” (Michael Curtiz, 1944).

6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “Mildred Pierce” (Michael Curtiz, 1945).

The classic trio of “Casablanca.”

The classic trio of “Casablanca.”

See Pick of the Week above.

Wed., April 8

2 p.m. (11 a.m.): “Bunny Lake Is Missing” (Otto Preminger, 1965). Bunny Lake is an American child kidnapped in London, Carol Lynley her terrified mother, Keir Dullea her concerned uncle, Anna Massey her harassed teacher, Noel Coward her sleazy landlord, and Laurence Olivier the shrewd police detective trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The most important of those pieces: Was Bunny ever really there at all? A neglected gem; based on Evelyn Piper’s novel.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “La Strada” (Federico Fellini, 1954).

2 a.m. (11 p.m.): “Requiem for a Heavyweight” (Ralph Nelson, 1962).

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Happy Birthday to a noir grande dame, Lady Joan

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

Film Noir Blonde

Film Noir Blonde

Laemmle NoHo7 - 140The Film Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard). All films without a new review have been covered previously in Film Noir Blonde and can be searched in the FNB archives (at right).

Pick of the Week: Joan Crawford Marathon &
Laemmle’s NoHo 7 Party, Monday, March 23

Warner Archive - SmallerShakar Bakery - SmallerNext Monday is Joan Crawford’s birthday; she was born March 23, 1905. And, if you’re an Angeleno, you can celebrate all day – first by catching one or more of the seven Crawford movies, including three noirs, running on Turner Classic Movies on Pacific time from 3:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (And on Eastern time, from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.).

Then, head to Laemmle’s NoHo 7 in North Hollywood (5240 Lankershim Blvd.), and watch two of Crawford’s very best noirs on the big screen starting at 7:30 p.m.: 1947’s too often neglected “Possessed” and 1962’s Robert Aldrich-directed masterpiece, “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” co-starring the one and only Bette Davis and

“He’s just not that into you …” does NOT go over well with Miss Crawford. The very talented Van Heflin plays the heel in “Possessed.”

“He’s just not that into you …” does NOT go over well with Miss Crawford. The very talented Van Heflin plays the heel in “Possessed.”

The event will be co-hosted live (with cake, a trivia contest and prizes) by Film Noir Blonde. Shakar Bakery is providing the cake.

Tickets are $11 for one film or $15 or both. Prizes are courtesy of Warner Archive.

Happy Birthday, Joan!

Film noir titles

8:15 a.m. (5:15 a.m.): “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?(Robert Aldrich, 1962)

2 p.m. (11 a.m.): “Flamingo Road” (Michael Curtiz, 1949).

6 p.m. (3 pm.): “Mildred Pierce” (Michael Curtiz, 1945).

Other JC titles: “The Caretakers” (Hall Bartlett, 1963); “Torch Song” (Charles Walters, 1953); “Goodbye, My Fancy” (Vincent Sherman, 1951), “Humoresque” (Jean Negulesco, 1946).

The real-life rivalry of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford infused “Baby Jane” with extra tension.

The real-life rivalry of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford infused “Baby Jane” with extra tension.


Saturday, March 21

8:45 a.m. (5:45 a.m.): “White Zombie” (Victor Halperin, 1932).

Sunday, March 22

8 a.m. (5 a.m.): “Gilda” (Charles Vidor, 1946).

2:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m.): “Torment” (Alf Sjoberg, 1944). This psychological thriller about a sadistic teacher (Stig Jarrel) tormenting two young lovers (Mai Zetterling, Alf Kjellin), filmed in pseudo-German expressionist-style, was the first big hit by its young screenwriter: enthusiastic film-noir fan Ingmar Bergman. (In Swedish, with subtitles.)

Blue Gardenia poster4:15 a.m. (1:15 a.m.): “Miss Julie” (Alf Sjoberg, 1951). The famous prize-winning film version of playwright August Strindberg’s dark, terror-filled theatrical classic about a sadomasochistic romance between a susceptible aristocrat (Anita Bork) and a brutal groom (Ulf Palme). (In Swedish, with subtitles.)

Tuesday, March 24

2:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m.): “Wait Until Dark” (Terence Young, 1967).

Wednesday, March 25

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “The Blue Gardenia” (Fritz Lang, 1953).

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Film Noir File: Carol Reed’s ‘Odd Man Out’ is a great Irish drama and a great thriller

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

The Film Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard). All films without a new review have been covered previously and can be searched in the FNB archives (at right).

Pick of the Week

Odd Man Out” (U.K.; 1947, Carol Reed). Tuesday, March 17, 8 p.m. (5 p.m.).

Carol Reed’s 1947 British thriller “Odd Man Out” is one of the great suspense dramas and one of the great film noirs. It’s an Irish odyssey that wrings every drop of tension from its subject. It’s also a story of love and death that plunges you into deepest night, and cracks your heart as you watch it.

James Mason always considered Johnny his best performance,

James Mason always considered Johnny his best performance,

The film revolves around Irish revolutionary Johnny McQueen, played by James Mason in a near-perfect performance.

As the film follows its dying protagonist – shot during an I. R. A. bank robbery and desperately trying to make his way to safety while being hunted by both the police and his friends – it creates an indelible portrait of a city at night, populated by a gallery of unforgettable characters.

That city is Belfast, though it’s never named as such. It’s a metropolis torn into bloody fragments, yet also seething with humanity, humor, embattled faith, bloody conflict and mad poetry. The city is stunningly photographed in rich blacks and ivory whites by cinematographer Robert Krasker in nearly the same palette he and Reed later used for 1949’s “The Third Man.”

Mason’s Johnny is not a naturally violent outlaw, but an idealist who is simply trying to hold onto life.  The wounded IRA man runs a gauntlet of terror, escaping from the bank where he was shot, wandering from place to place, from homes to bars to city scrapheaps, constantly a fugitive, sometimes helped, often recognized, safe only for fleeting moments.

Kathleen Ryan plays Johnny’s love interest.

Kathleen Ryan plays Johnny’s love interest.

Johnny’s main contacts are his lover Kathleen (Kathleen Ryan), also loved by the stern police inspector (Denis O’Dea) on Johnny’s trail; the elderly, frail, art fancier Father Tom (W. G. Fay); and an opportunistic little man named Shell (F. J. McCormick), who lives in an attic with two fellow eccentrics – Robert Newton as the alcoholic painter Lukey, and Elwyn Brooke-Jones as the failed medical student Tober.

Johnny’s suffering keeps bringing out the best and the worst in the people he encounters. The first act of “Odd Man Out” is a near-Hitchcockian masterpiece of suspense. The final act hits a mixture of irony, poignancy and terror that few films reach.

Mason always considered Johnny his best performance, and it may well be – though other Mason performances are in the same class: Humbert Humbert in “Lolita,” Norman Maine in “A Star is Born,” Ed Avery in “Bigger Than Life,” Trigorin in “The Sea Gull” and Sir Randolph in “The Shooting Party.” McCormick’s Shell is a magnificent portrayal as well – beautifully restrained and sly, full of fallibility, weakness and a near-demonic will. You’ll never forget Shell even if you didn’t know or won’t remember this superb actor’s name.

The script, a gem, was adapted from his bestselling novel by F. L. Green, who was born in England and died (in 1949) in Belfast, and playwright R. C. Sherriff (“Journey’s End”). It was produced and directed by Reed, then at the peak of his powers as a filmmaker.

If you’ve never seen “Odd Man Out,” try to catch it this time: a great Irish drama and film noir, a great Carol Reed film and James Mason performance, and a great story of suffering and redemption, while running and hiding in Belfast, city of night.

Saturday, March 14

Killer's Kiss poster7 a.m. (4 a.m.): “Killer’s Kiss” (Stanley Kubrick, 1955).

8:15 a.m. (5:15 a.m.): “The Big Clock” (John Farrow, 1948).

12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “Dead End” (William Wyler, 1937).

2 a.m. (11 p.m.). “The Town that Dreaded Sundown” (Charles B. Pierce, 1976). Based on fact, this indie low-budget movie about a Texas serial killer influenced a host of less factual slasher movies later on. With Ben Johnson and Dawn Wells.

3:30 a.m. (12:30 a.m.): “In Cold Blood” (Richard Brooks, 1967).

Monday, March 16

10 a.m. (7 a.m.): “Fury” (Fritz Lang, 1936).

11:45 a.m. (8:45 a.m.): “Saboteur” (Alfred Hitchcock, 1942).

1:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m.) “The Wages of Fear” (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1953). One of the greatest of all suspense films, this legendary French shocker is Clouzot’s nerve-rending account of four expatriate drivers trying to escape a horrible little South American backwater by driving two truckloads of nitroglycerin to a burning oil field over dangerous mountain roads.

A masterpiece of dark cynicism and blazing suspense, it’s even tenser and scarier than Clouzot’s more famous thriller “Diabolique.” The film boasts an incredible script (by Clouzot and Jerome Geronimi, from Georges Arnaud’s novel), amazing camerawork and razor-sharp editing. There’s also a fantastic cast: Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Peter Van Eyck, Folco Lulli, Daniel Gelin and the director’s long-suffering wife, Vera Clouzot.

“You sit there, waiting for the theater to explode!” claimed the 1954 American theater ads, and they weren’t far wrong. William Friedkin’s 1977 remake “Sorcerer,” with Roy Scheider, though a fine, underrated film, pales by comparison. (French, with subtitles.)

Also available from Criterion in DVD and Blu-ray with a documentary as well as interviews with Montand and others.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Celebrate Joan Crawford’s birthday at Laemmle’s NoHo 7

See “Possessed” & “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” on the big screen!

Laemmle NoHo7 - 140Laemmle Theatres and Film Noir Blonde are pleased to present a double feature on Monday, March 23, at Laemmle’s NoHo 7, to mark Joan Crawford’s birthday.

A gifted actress and the ultimate movie star, Joan Crawford found that by the mid-1940s, her career had stalled. She restarted it with the help of film noir, namely 1945’s “Mildred Pierce,” by director Michael Curtiz, for which she won the Best Actress Oscar. Whether she played a tough broad or a lady in distress, Crawford was especially well suited for the genre’s expressionistic intensity. She starred in many film-noir titles between 1945 and 1962.

Possessed movie poster -- 140What Ever Happened to Baby Jane poster - SmallerOn Monday, March 23, Laemmle’s NoHo 7 will pay tribute to her legacy with a special double bill from Warner Bros.: “Possessed” (1947, Curtis Bernhardt) and “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962, Robert Aldrich).

The program will start at 7:30 p.m., with “Possessed” and “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” at 9:55. Tickets are $11 each, $15 for the double feature.

There will be a special birthday cake for Ms. Crawford’s fans and Warner Bros. Archive will provide select prizes. Laemmle’s NoHo 7 is at 5240 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601, 818-762-4600. Laemmle’s main number is 310-478-3836.

Film Noir Blonde

Film Noir Blonde

Joining the party will be Jacqueline Fitzgerald, founder and editor of FilmNoirBlonde.com. Fitzgerald will introduce the movies.

In “Possessed” (also starring Van Heflin and Raymond Massey) Crawford gives a memorable performance as a woman who can’t get over a bad relationship. In “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” she is Blanche Hudson, a once-glamorous Hollywood actress who lives with her demented sister (Bette Davis), a former child star.

Full reviews are available here:

“Possessed” http://bit.ly/1saxBHV

“Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” http://bit.ly/1z7ctQ7

 

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Film Noir File: Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ still gives us chills

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

The Film Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard). All films without a new review have been covered previously in Film Noir Blonde and can be searched in the FNB archives (at right).

Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh star in “Psycho.”

Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh star in “Psycho.”

Pick of the Week

Psycho”(1960, Alfred Hitchcock). Saturday, March 7, 4:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m.)

Saturday, March 7

2 p.m. (11 a.m.): “A Face in the Crowd” (1957, Elia Kazan).

6:15 p.m. (3:15 p.m.): “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964, Stanley Kubrick).

Sunday, March 8

Gun Crazy poster narrow8:30 a.m. (5:30 a.m.). “Gun Crazy” (1950, Joseph H. Lewis).

4:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.): “The Defiant Ones” (1958, Stanley Kramer).

Tuesday, March 10

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “A Place in the Sun” (1951, George Stevens).

Wednesday, March 11

6 a.m. (3 a.m.): “Stage Fright” (1950, Alfred Hitchcock).

8 a.m. (5 a.m.): “Ministry of Fear” (1944, Fritz Lang).

9:45 a.m. (6:45 a.m.): “Lured” (1947, Douglas Sirk).

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and so do vets!

Pin-Ups for Vets

The Crest Theater in Westwood and Pin-Ups on Tour are co-hosting Blonde Bombshells: A Tribute to Screen Sirens on Saturday, March 7.

Billed as a celebration of Hollywood glamour, the night will feature blonde burlesque performers, a pin-ups bar, a raffle and a screening of the Marilyn Monroe classic “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953, Howard Hawks).

Proceeds from the event will benefit the non-profit Pin-Ups for Vets, which helps support hospitalized veterans and deployed troops. Since 2006, Pin-Ups for Vets has raised money for under-funded hospital programs that support America’s veterans and recovering military service members.

The program starts at 7 p.m. and the movie starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20. The Crest is at 1262 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90024. Built in 1940, the historic Crest Theater now specializes in interactive entertainment and film.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

UCLA’s Preservation Fest to screen ‘Too late for Tears’ and ‘The Guilty’ as part of monthlong run of restored films

The LA TimesKenneth Turan recently gave high praise indeed to the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s Festival of Preservation.

Too Late for Tears posterThe Guilty posterAs he put it: “Forget Cannes, Sundance, even the Oscars: This is the cinematic event I look forward to most of all. That’s because no other movie festival comes close to it in the magnificent breadth of neglected but compelling American film material it puts on display.”

Hmm. Forget Sundance? Sure. Forget the Oscars? Done. But Cannes? Not so much. That said, however, I am also very much looking forward to UCLA’s terrific monthlong lineup, which begins on March 5 with Anthony Mann’s “Men in War.” This year marks the 17th edition of the festival.

For noir fans, the double feature on Saturday, March 7, should not be missed. It starts at 7:30 p.m.

In “Too Late for Tears” (1949, Byron Haskin), noir badness bursts from the screen as Lizabeth Scott plays a housewife who comes across a suitcase stuffed with $60,000 in cash. Scott seizes the chance to say goodbye to cooking meatloaf, washing dishes and doing laundry. Duh! Besides, it turns out that she’s a much better murderess than she was a homemaker. Arthur Kennedy plays her husband and the always-great Dan Duryea shines as a private eye.

Next up is “The Guilty” (1947, John Reinhardt), based on a short story by Cornell Woolrich. Here, Don Castle and Wally Cassell are lured into trouble by Bonita Granville, who plays twin sisters, one good and one bad, natch. When the nice girl is found murdered, both men are under suspicion. “The Guilty” is reminiscent of Robert Siodmak’s “The Dark Mirror” from 1946.

Film historian Alan K. Rode will discuss the films.

Films will be screened at the Hammer Museum’s Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Classic ‘Rashomon’ kicks off Kurosawa tribute at the Crest

By Mike Wilmington

Akira Kurosawa of Japan is the “sensei” (or master): a genius of filmmaking and the father of the modern action-adventure movie.

Rashomon poster largeHe was one of the three giants of the Japanese Cinema’s Golden Age (with Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi). He was also a devotee of American action cinema, of film noir and of American Westerns, especially the films of his friend and mentor John Ford.

Kurosawa pioneered an explosive, ingenious cinematic style of multiple camera use and rapid-fire editing that went beyond Ford and revolutionized action moviemaking, enormously influencing Sam Peckinpah (“The Wild Bunch”), Arthur Penn (“Bonnie and Clyde”), Sergio Leone (“A Fistful of Dollars,” a remake of “Yojimbo”), John Sturges (“The Magnificent Seven,” a remake of “Seven Samurai”), Don Siegel (“Dirty Harry”), Clint Eastwood (“The Outlaw Josey Wales”) and many others.

High and Low posterBut Kurosawa’s incandescent scenes of violence do not exist in a moral void. Instead, the sensei’s films are infused with a truly adult and humane perspective on life, a mature observation of character and humanity, and a deep sense of the tragedy that faces us all.

Kurosawa has his cinematic peers: Bergman, Fellini, Renoir, Hitchcock, Welles. But he has no superiors, not even his idol John Ford. His films are, like Kurosawa himself, matchless.

You can see five of them on the big screen at the Crest Theater in Westwood during a monthlong tribute to Akira Kurosawa as a part of their salute to foreign filmmakers. The theater will screen one of Kurosawa’s samurai classics every Sunday at 5 p.m. The schedule is as follows:

Sunday, March 1: “Rashomon” – 1950 (1 hr. 28m) The legendary classic about four contradictory views of a murder: the film masterpiece that put Kurosawa, and Japanese cinema, on the international map.

Seven Samurai poster

Seven Samurai poster

Sunday, March 8: “The Hidden Fortress” – 1958 (2 hr. 6m) The most comical of Kurosawa’s samurai adventure epics, about a warrior who helps rescue a princess. One of the films that most inspired  “Star Wars.”

Sunday, March 15: “High and Low” – 1963 (2 hr. 23m) Inspired by an American crime novel by Ed McBain, this great film noir is about a kidnapping and a businessman who will lose everything if he pays the ransom.

Sunday, March 22: “Yojimbo” – 1961 (1 hr. 50m) The great samurai film, revolving around a cynical warrior who plays both sides in a town feud against each other.

Sunday, March 29: “Seven Samurai” – 1954 (3 hr. 27m) Seven gutsy independent samurai, led by an idealistic veteran warrior, defend a village against vicious marauding bandits. One of the greatest and most exciting films ever made.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Film Noir File: Your passport to Coen Bros.’ neo-noir ‘Country’

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

The Film Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard). All films without a new review have been covered previously in Film Noir Blonde and can be searched in the FNB archives (at right).

Pick of the Week

No Country posterNo Country for Old Men” (2007, Joel and Ethan Coen). Tuesday, March 3, 12:30 a.m. (9:30 p.m.)

The Coen Brothers’ most praised and prized movie, and one of their most memorable, is the grim, mesmerizing crime-drama/chase-thriller “No Country for Old Men.” The multiple-Oscar winning film is adapted, very faithfully, from one of Cormac McCarthy‘s darkest and most violent novels.

Set in 1980s Texas, in an anti-John Ford Western land of harsh plains and searing deserts, barren cities and the hot, speedy roads that connect all of them, the movie is about a huge cache of illegal drug money that falls into the hands of a local cowboy-hatted small-towner named Moss (Josh Brolin) after a massacre wipes out most of the criminals and smugglers handling the transfer.

Unfortunately, there’s one deadly efficient collector still around: the incredible Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh a.k.a. Sugar, a terrifying psychopathic killer with a seemingly permanent dour deadpan stare, a laughably lousy haircut and a relentless talent for finding the right people in all the wrong places – and sending them to the hell that surely must have spawned him.

There are other terrific actors (playing terrific roles) in “No Country,” namely Tommy Lee Jones as Ed Tom Bell, a melancholy old sheriff watching his world disintegrate, Bell’s lonely old friend (Barry Corbin), Moss’s steadfast but unlucky wife (Kelly MacDonald) and a lippy, freelance loot-scavenger (Woody Harrelson).

Texas. Tough guys. Epic bad hairstyling. Enjoy your visit to this ‘Country.’ Or else.

Saturday, Feb. 28. Thriller Day

6 a.m. (3 a.m.): “The Window” (1949, Ted Tetzlaff).

7:15 a.m. (4:15 a.m.): “Night Must Fall” (1937, Richard Thorpe).

9:15 a.m. (6:15 a.m.): “Kind Lady” (1951, John Sturges).

10:45 a.m. (7:45 a.m.): “Wait Until Dark” (1967, Terence Young).

12:45 p.m. (9:45 a.m.): “The Narrow Margin” (1952, Richard Fleischer).

2 p.m. (11 a.m.): “Strangers on a Train” (1951, Alfred Hitchcock).

3:45 p.m. (12:45 p.m.): “Shadow of a Doubt“ (1943, Alfred Hitchcock).

Sunday, March 1

Chicago poster10:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m.): “Chicago” (2002, Rob Marshall). This strange, Oscar-winning hybrid is, of all things, a neo-noir crime courtroom musical. It’s based on the jazzy, snazzy Broadway show by songsmiths Kander and Ebb (of “New York, New York”) and director Bob Fosse, which in turn was based on the classic 1942 film noir “Roxie Hart” by writer-producer Nunnally Johnson and director William Wellman.

The story is as cynical as, well, a ’20s Chicago newspaper guy on deadline. Wannabe star showgirl Roxie (Renee Zellweger in the old Ginger Rogers role) schemes to become famous by committing a near-murder and generating a sensational trial. John C. Reilly is her hapless hubby, Richard Gere is her flashy lawyer, and Catherine Zeta-Jones (an Oscar winner here) steals the whole damned show as another would-be murderess and Roxie’s inspiration. This is a good, splashy, nasty neo-noir, but you can’t help wondering about the movie the late Bob Fosse might have made out of it.

Wednesday, March 4

12 p.m. (9 a.m.): “Dementia 13” (1963, Francis Ford Coppola).

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter