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.

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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.

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Noir City returns; program includes French, British, Italian films

Rififi posterIt’s almost time to take one of our favorite trips of the year: A one-way ticket to Noir City at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood!

Starting Friday, the American Cinematheque and the Film Noir Foundation will present their 16th annual festival of film noir. Jaded gumshoes, femmes fatale and menacing heavies will reign supreme in gloriously gritty black and white. The fest runs through April 6, with a stand-out celebration on April 5.

We at FNB are especially excited to see the fest expand to include film noir from abroad with evenings devoted to French (“Two Men in Manhattan,” “Rififi,” “Jenny Lamour), British (“It Always Rains on Sunday,” “Brighton Rock”) and Italian (“Ossessione”) noir.

Ossessione posterThe program pays tribute to a trio of talented actresses who died in 2013 with noir nights devoted to Joan Fontaine (“Born to Be Bad”, “Ivy”), Eleanor Parker (“Caged,” “Detective Story”) and Audrey Totter (“Tension,” “Alias Nick Beal”).

Actor Dan Duryea will be honored on opening night, March 21, with this enticing double feature: “Too Late for Tears” (a new 35mm restoration) and “Larceny.” Also to be honored (on other nights): writer David Goodis and director Hugo Fregonese.

Be sure to join FNF co-directors Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode as they host another exciting excursion into the dark recesses of Hollywood’s most lasting artistic movement, film noir.

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Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs kicks off with ‘Three Strangers,’ a cynical tale of a trio bonded by fate

Three Strangers” (1946, Jean Negulesco) will open the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs on Thursday, May 16. The fest, which runs through Sunday, May 19, will close with “The Asphalt Jungle” (1950, John Huston); a total of 12 films is scheduled. The lineup is a mix of landmark and obscure vintage movies from the classic film noir era.

Negulesco’s “Three Strangers” tells the cynical tale of a trio bonded by fate and a winning lottery ticket: Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Geraldine Fitzgerald star. To read more about this film, I recommend this piece by my friend, writer/producer Barry Grey.

In addition to the screenings, the festival will include special guests and receptions. Ticket and festival information are available online or by calling 760-325-6565. Producer and host Alan K. Rode will be there to introduce films and make sure everyone is having a dark and decadent good time. Having attended in 2011, I can highly recommend this fest.

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Burt Lancaster on the big screen: ‘The Killers’ and ‘Criss Cross’

UCLA’s Billy Wilder Theater will present a terrific double bill on Saturday, May 4: two works from film-noir master Robert Siodmak, starring Burt Lancaster.

Burt Lancaster made his screen debut in “The Killers,” co-starring Ava Gardner.

In addition to being handsome and lithe, Lancaster projected intelligence, sensitivity and depth. He made his screen debut in “The Killers” (1946), adapted from an Ernest Hemingway short story and co-starring Ava Gardner. Lancaster can’t break Yvonne De Carlo’s spell in “Criss Cross” (1949), a brooding narrative of betrayal set in the back alleys of post-war downtown Los Angeles.

The evening is part of the Lancaster centennial celebration presented by the UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Hugh M. Hefner Classic American Film Program. The celebration of Lancaster’s movies runs through June 30. The Film Noir Foundation’s Alan K. Rode is the special guest on May 4.

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Aero Theatre offers straight-up noir delight with Sam Fuller mini-fest, Fritz Lang night, Barry Sullivan tribute

Sam Fuller

The Aero Theatre in Santa Monica has some terrific noir offerings, starting this weekend. First up, an homage to a master: Underworld U.S.A.: The Pulpy Heart of Sam Fuller Cinema. Highlights of the series include: “Shock Corridor,” “Pickup on South Street,” “Underworld U.S.A.” and “The Naked Kiss.”

As part of Monday Night Mysteries, on Aug. 27, there’s a Fritz Lang double feature, starting with a new 35mm print of “The Big Heat,” starring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame and Lee Marvin, followed by “The Woman in the Window,” in which Edward G. Robinson risks his cozy life as a college professor to have an affair with Joan Bennett.

If you missed Alan Ladd’s noir-tinged take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby” at this year’s Film Noir Festival, you have a second chance to see the film on Wednesday, Aug. 29. “Gatsby,” which, in addition to Ladd, stars Barry Sullivan as Tom Buchanan, is paired with another Sullivan vehicle, “The Gangster,” to mark the centennial of the actor’s birth. Special guests scheduled to attend on Wednesday are the actor’s daughter Jenny Sullivan and the Film Noir Foundation’s Alan K. Rode.

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‘The Big Sleep’ and more on the big screen

Tonight (Wednesday, June 13) at 8 p.m., the Film Noir Foundation’s Alan K. Rode will host a screening of “The Big Sleep” (1946, Howard Hawks) at the Los Angeles Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. Hawks’ adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s labyrinthine mystery stars Humphrey Bogart as private eye Philip Marlowe and Lauren Bacall as a rich girl who may be helping or hindering him.

The event is sold out, but there will be rush tickets available on a first-come first-serve basis at the box office. For more info on the screening, visit the Los Angeles Conservancy.

Additionally, the Pacific Film Archive, in Berkeley, Calif., is hosting One-Two Punch: Pulp Writers, a film series that explores movie adaptations of three divergent authors: Dorothy B. Hughes, Mickey Spillane and Elmore Leonard. The series comprises classic films noirs such as Nicholas Ray’s “In a Lonely Place” (1950) and George A. White’s “My Gun is Quick” (1957), as well as thrillers like Roy Rowland’s “The Girl Hunters” (1963), starring Spillane as Mike Hammer.

For full details about the series, running June 23-30, visit the Pacific Film Archive.

And on Thursday, the Los Angeles Film Festival begins downtown.

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Non-stop film noir on the big screen in Los Angeles

The enduring appeal of film noir shows no signs of waning – there are scads of noir screenings in and around LA over the next several weeks.

Noir City Hollywood continues at the Egyptian Theatre through May 6. Tonight, actress Julie Adams will talk with Alan K. Rode between the films 1957’s “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” (in which Adams co-stars with Richard Egan, Jan Sterling, Dan Duryea, Walter Matthau and Charles McGraw) and “Edge of the City” (1957).

And a must-see for me: Ida Lupino in “Private Hell 36” (1954) by director Don Siegel. Lupino also co-wrote this flick, which runs on Wednesday, May 2, after “Shield for Murder” (1954), co-directed by Howard Koch and star Edmond O’Brien.

In conjunction with the Herb Ritts: L.A. Style exhibition, running through Aug. 26 at the Getty Museum, a companion (free!) film series starts today. Ritts (1952–2002) was a top 1980s photographer and his preference for outdoor locations such as the desert and the beach helped to distinguish his work from his New York-based peers.

Admittedly, “Gilda” is the only true noir on the roster, but Ritts’ work taps retro Hollywood glamour. As the Getty puts it: “Ritts’ relationship with his subjects echoes certain director-actor relationships dating from the silent era and the eight films in this series showcase this special relationship.”

On Friday, May 4, the New Beverly Cinema is showing John Frankenheimer’s sci-fi neo-noir from 1966 “Seconds,” which stars Rock Hudson; cinematography by James Wong Howe. “Seconds” is paired with 1997’s “Face/Off” by director John Woo starring John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Joan Allen, Dominique Swain and Nick Cassavetes. Screenwriters Mike Werb and Michael Colleary are scheduled to appear in person.

Also worth a watch: Universal Pictures celebrates its centennial with a series of screenings (“The Black Cat” and “The Birds” caught my eye) at UCLA’s Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood from May 4 to June 24.

You’ll certainly get a full-on noir lineup at the 12th annual Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival, which runs in Palm Springs from May 10-13.

Van Heflin and Joan Crawford star in “Possessed” from 1947.

Festival programmer and film historian Alan K. Rode has selected a great lineup, including Fritz Lang’s “The Big Heat” (1953), starring Glenn Ford, and “Possessed” (1947) by Curtis Bernhardt.

Ford’s son Peter will attend “The Big Heat” screening. “Possessed” earned Joan Crawford her second Oscar nom (she won for 1945’s “Mildred Pierce”); co-starring are Van Heflin, Raymond Massey and Geraldine Brooks.

Other titles, screened from new 35 mm prints, include: “Shield for Murder” (1954), “I Love Trouble” (1948), “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” (1957) and “The Face Behind the Mask” (1941), starring Peter Lorre.

I’m also very much looking forward to The Sun Sets in the West: Mid-Century California Noir at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), from May 18-26.

Says LACMA: “Experience the dark side of modern living with this series of mid-century film noirs. Shot on location and set amid the bustle of major cities such as Los Angeles and San Francisco – as well as their sun-soaked periphery, beach cities, and desert oases – these 10 films inject the Golden State’s benign climate with a heady dose of postwar angst.”

The titles in the series are: “Kiss Me Deadly” (1955, by director Robert Aldrich); “The Crimson Kimono” (1959, Sam Fuller) “Experiment in Terror (1962, Blake Edwards); “Criss Cross” (1949, Robert Siodmak); “M” (1951, Joseph Losey); “The Damned Don’t Cry” (1950, Vincent Sherman); “Slightly Scarlet” (1956, Allan Dwan); “Murder by Contract” (1958, Irving Lerner); “Nightfall” (1957, Jacques Tourneur) and “The Prowler” (1951, Joseph Losey).

The one and only Bogart

Additionally, UCLA’s Film & Television Archive and the Million Dollar Theater are presenting three interesting double bills in downtown Los Angeles:

Brian De Palma in the 1970s (“Sisters,” his first Hitchcockian thriller, and “Phantom of the Paradise”) on Wednesday, May 2.

“The hunted and the hunter” film-noir night, featuring “Mickey One” (1965, Arthur Penn) and “Blast of Silence (1961, Allen Baron) on Wednesday, May 16.

Nicholas Ray directs Humphrey Bogart in “Knock on Any Door” (1949) and “In a Lonely Place” (1950) on Wednesday, May 23.

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Grahame, Hayden, Sinatra: Highlights of Noir City Hollywood

I finally got to see Gloria Grahame vamping it up in “Naked Alibi” (1954) on Saturday night at the American Cinematheque’s Noir City Hollywood film fest, now in its 14th year. Grahame is one of my fave femme fatales and this film is hard to find, let alone see on the big screen – the new 35 mm print was introduced by fest organizers and noir experts Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode.

Gloria Grahame in “Naked Alibi”

Co-starring Gene Barry as Grahame’s gangster boyfriend and Sterling Hayden as a vigilante cop, “Naked” certainly has a great cast and a great name. Unfortunately, though, Jerry Hopper is not a great or even a good director. This film reminds of me Grahame playing similar roles in far better movies (“The Big Heat,” “Human Desire,” “In a Lonely Place,” “Sudden Fear”). Still, I always have a good time watching this ultimate good-time girl.

As part of a tribute night to Hayden, “Naked” was paired with 1954’s “Suddenly,” in which Hayden plays a sheriff opposite Frank Sinatra as a psycho leading a plot to assassinate the president. Directed by Lewis Allen and written by Richard Sale, “Suddenly” has been hard to see until now because Sinatra did his best to buy all copies of this film after John F. Kennedy’s death. This digital restoration by Lobster Films featured crisp contrast, though there were many patches of white that looked iridescent. (Apparently, this was a problem with the projection, not the print.) It’s interesting as a B-movie rarity with Hayden letting a malevolent Sinatra steal the show.

The fest continues through May 6 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

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Film noir screenings galore this month in Los Angeles

A new photo for FNB! By Halstan Williams, www.halstan.com

So looking forward to the dark this month! There are three great fests taking place in April.

“Criss Cross” is the first of many excellent film noir titles at the third annual TCM Classic Film Festival, which this year is celebrating style in the movies, from fashion to architecture and everything in between.

The festival runs Thursday through Sunday. “Criss Cross” screens at 10 p.m. Thursday and the Film Noir Foundation’s czar of noir Eddie Muller will introduce the film.

Other noirs include: “Raw Deal,” “Cry Danger,” “Vertigo,” “Chinatown,” “Fall Guy,” “Night and the City,” “Gun Crazy,” “Marathon Man,” “Seconds,” “To Catch a Thief” and “Black Sunday.”

Kim Novak is one of many Hollywood greats to attend the fest; check out the schedule for more info on events, interviews and discussions. (For a little comic relief from full-on noir fare, the always-entertaining Michael Schlesinger will introduce 1942’s “Who Done It,” in which Bud Abbott and Lou Costello play a pair of would-be writers posing as detectives.)

Starting Monday, April 16, is the 16th annual City of Lights City of Angels (COL•COA) film festival, which presents 34 French features and 21 shorts. Opening the fest is the North American premiere of “My Way” (“CloClo”), a biopic about French pop star Claude François. Directed by Florent-Emilio Siri, the film stars Jérémie Renier.

Closing the fest on Sunday, April 22, is a comedy called “The Intouchables,” by writer/directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano. Starring François Cluzet and Omar Sy, “The Intouchables” is the third highest grossing film of all time in France.

Other titles of particular interest include: “Michel Petrucciani,” “38 Witnesses,” “Guilty,” “A Trip to the Moon”/“The Extraordinary Voyage,” “Step Up to the Plate,” “The Art of Love,” “Another Woman’s Life,” “Le Skylab,” “Call Me Savage,” Paris By Night,” “A Gang Story,” “Early One Morning,” “Hotel du Nord, “Americano, “Polisse” and “The Minister.”

Paris By Night,” “A Gang Story” and “Early One Morning are part of COL•COA’s film-noir series on Friday, April 20.

Femme fatale Gloria Grahame stars with Sterling Hayden in 1954’s “Naked Alibi,” the first film in the Hayden tribute. The second: “Suddenly,” 1954.

Friday, April 20, is also the opening night of Noir City: Hollywood, the 14th annual festival of film noir at the Egyptian Theatre, presented in collaboration with the Film Noir Foundation.

Opening night is an Alan Ladd double feature: “The Great Gatsby” and “This Gun for Hire.” The foundation’s Eddie Muller and fellow noir expert Alan K. Rode will introduce the movie.

The stellar lineup includes many rare films, several of which are not on DVD:

“Naked Alibi”/“Suddenly”
“Phantom Lady”/“Black Angel”/“The Window”
“T-Men”/“Strange Impersonation”
“Caged”/“Big House USA”
“Scene of the Crime”/“Reign of Terror”
“Slaughter on Tenth Avenue”/“Edge of the City”
“Johnny O’Clock/“Johnny Allegro”
“Shield for Murder”/“Private Hell 36”
“Okay, America”/“Afraid to Talk”
“The Maltese Falcon”/“City Streets”
“The Postman Always Rings Twice”
“Three Strangers”/“Nobody Lives Forever”
“Circumstantial Evidence”/“Sign of the Ram”
“Mary Ryan, Detective”/“Kid Glove Killer”

See you in the dark!

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