Film noir feast this weekend: ‘Sin City,’ Exile Noir and ‘Pickup’

“Double Indemnity” and “Pitfall” will open UCLA’s Exile Noir series.

“Double Indemnity” and “Pitfall” will open UCLA’s Exile Noir series.

There are several delectable film noir offerings this weekend in Los Angeles. First, a sequel worth seeing! That would be “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” by directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez. It’s a follow-up to 2005’s “Sin City.” (Miller adapted both scripts from his graphic novels.)

Sin City 2“Sin City 2” stars Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The movie opens Friday.

Following closely behind its Hollywood Exiles in Europe series, UCLA is hosting Exile Noir, a lineup that explores the major contribution to film noir by German-speaking émigrés in Hollywood, all of whom were schooled in German expressionist cinema. Exiled from Nazi Germany, Jewish writers and directors brought a dark vision to their work, informed by staggering loss, pain, fear and betrayal.

Their arrival in Los Angeles permanently altered the city’s creative landscape. As Jan-Christopher Horak, director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive, recently told Susan King of the LA Times: “[Their arrival] changed not just the film industry and the kind of films that were being made, it changed the intellectual life. You have people who are not in the film industry but came here because of the weather and perceived opportunities, like [composer] Arnold Schoenberg and [author] Thomas Mann. They changed the intellectual character of Southern California.”

Pitfall poster 214The program, which runs through Sept. 28, kicks off with an impressive double bill: the prototype of the genre, “Double Indemnity” (1944, Billy Wilder) and “Pitfall” (1948, André De Toth), starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott and Jane Wyatt. In honor of “Double Indemnity” turning 70 this year, on Valentine’s Day, we compiled a list of 14 reasons we love this flick.

This series is presented in anticipation of the Skirball Cultural Center exhibit, Light & Noir: Exiles and Émigrés in Hollywood, 1933–1950, running Oct. 23–March 1, 2015. More on that in the next few weeks.

Also, as I mentioned earlier this week, the Egyptian Theatre is showing Sam Fuller’s film noir masterpiece “Pickup on South Street” and “White Dog.” His daughter Samantha Fuller will introduce the movies.

There’s no doubt: Life is good for noiristas in Los Angeles!

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The Film Noir File: Sam Fuller plays rough in noir classic ‘Pickup on South Street’

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). All movies below are from the schedule of TCM, which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

Thelma Ritter and Richard Widmark play tough cookies in "Pickup."

Thelma Ritter and Richard Widmark play tough cookies in “Pickup.”


Pick of the Week

Pickup on South Street” (1953, Samuel Fuller). 10 p.m. (7 p.m.) Wednesday, Aug. 20. From the 50s heyday of vintage film noir and the Red Scare comes a hard-boiled gem. Trust me. They don’t make em any tougher, crazier or edgier than this grimy, sharp classic by Sam Fuller — a prize winner at the 1953 Venice Film Festival, and probably Fuller’s best movie. It takes place in New York City in the lower depths, the dark waterfront, the mean streets. Our “hero” is a ferret-faced natty pickpocket (Richard Widmark), who lives on the docks by night and, by day, strips suckers of their wallets on the subways.

After accidentally lifting some valuable microfilm capable of compromising national security, the thief is suddenly up to his neck with cops, with a rat’s nest of Commie spies run by Richard Kiley, with a beautiful, tight-skirted, loose-moraled streetwalker played by Howard Hughes missus Jean Peters, and with a scrappy fence little old lady huckster named Mo, played by the great character lady Thelma Ritter in her most atypical role.

If you haven’t seen “Pickup on South Street,“ you don’t know noir at its noirest. Or Thelma and Sam at their roughest and toughest.


Friday, Aug. 15 (Faye Dunaway Day)

3:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m.): “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967, Arthur Penn). With Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Michael J. Pollard and Gene Wilder. Reviewed in FNB on Feb. 4, 2013.

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “Three Days of the Condor” (1975, Sydney Pollack). Robert Redford is a U. S. government reader and analyst whose world suddenly opens under his feet one day, when most of his colleagues are killed and he becomes a wanted man on the run. The quintessential paranoid anti-C.I.A. thriller, this is a modern variant on the prototypical Hitchcockian “wrong man suspenser. Based on the novel “Six Days of the Condor,” it’s been copied endlessly, especially by novelist John Grisham. With Faye Dunaway, Max Von Sydow, Cliff Robertson and John Houseman.

Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway star in "Chinatown."

Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway star in “Chinatown.”

12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “Chinatown” (1974, Roman Polanski). With Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston and Burt Young. Reviewed in FNB on Dec. 11, 2013.

Saturday, Aug. 16 (Herbert Marshall Day)

6: 15 p.m. (3:15 p.m.): “The Underworld Story” (1950, Cy Endfield). Big city reporter Dan Duryea gets exiled to a small-town murder case, in a plot that reminds you of Billy Wilder’s (later) “Ace in the Hole.” With Herbert Marshall and Gale Storm.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Foreign Correspondent” (1940, Alfred Hitchcock). With Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, George Sanders and Herbert Marshall. Reviewed in FNB on March 26, 2014.

10:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m.): “Murder!” (1930, Alfred Hitchcock). A guilt-stricken juror (Herbert Marshall) tries to clear a convicted murderer whom his vote condemned. One of Hitch’s best and most inventive early talkies. With Miles Mander.

12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “The Letter” (1940, William Wyler). With Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall and Gale Sondergaard. Reviewed in FNB on Sept. 19, 2012. Followed at 1:45 a.m. (10:45 p.m.), by the 1929 film version of “The Letter,” directed by Jean De Lemur, starring the legendary lady of Maugham’s “Rain,” Jeanne Eagels.

Sunday, Aug. 17 (John Hodiak Day)

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Lifeboat” (1944, Alfred Hitchcock). With Tallulah Bankhead, John Hodiak, Walter Slezak, William Bendix and Hume Cronyn. Reviewed in FNB on Jan. 16, 2014.

Coolhand Luke poster


Tuesday, Aug. 19 (Paul Newman Day)

1:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m.): “Harper” (1966, Jack Smight). With Paul Newman, Janet Leigh, Lauren Bacall, Julie Harris and Arthur Hell. Reviewed in FNB on June 19, 2014.

5:45 p.m. (2:45 p.m.). “Cool Hand Luke” (1967, Stuart Rosenberg). With Paul Newman, George Kennedy, Strother Martin, Dennis Hopper and Harry Dean Stanton. Reviewed in FNB on March 21, 2014.

Wednesday, Aug. 20 (Thelma Ritter Day)

10 p.m. (7 p.m.). “Pickup on South Street”: See Pick of the Week.

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‘A Most Wanted Man’ ranks as one of the year’s best movies

A Most Wanted Man posterA Most Wanted Man/2014/Demarest Films/122 min.

Shocking violence has become so yawningly common, so eye-rollingly banal that its flippant depiction onscreen is often just par for the course.

But once in a while you see a movie that derives its tension not from a pool of trigger-happy cardboard psychos and their brutal pursuers but from white-hot sparks that fly between finely drawn flesh-and-blood characters; people with depth and dimension, with vital things at stake.  That’s the case with “A Most Wanted Man,” a sharp, suspenseful thriller (based on a John le Carré novel) by director Anton Corbijn.

Corbijn has assembled outstanding actors at the top of their game to bring this story to life. The story and the film belong to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014) as Günther Bachmann, a driven workaholic in a German government security/anti-terrorist agency in Hamburg.

His job is keeping surreptitious watch over a mysterious half-Chechen, half-Russian Islamic immigrant Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin), who learns he is the potential heir to a fortune, assuming his claim to the money can be verified. In Günther’s mind, Karpov is a “minnow” in the larger quest to capture “a barracuda and a shark.”

Hoffman plays Günther with arresting realism. We see the dirt under Günther’s nails, hear the raspy voice that’s endured countless smokes and copious Scotch, see the hint of a pleased smile at the culmination of his search. Hoffman is mesmerizing.

Also turning in captivating performances are: Rachel McAdams as Karpov’s lawyer, Willem Dafoe as an uptight banker, Robin Wright as a CIA agent and Nina Hoss as Günther’s colleague.

Corbijn’s carefully rendered  mise-en-scène shows Hamburg, often shot against inky-blank nightscapes by Benoît Delhomme, as glossy and gritty, bustling and lonely. Herbert Grönemeyer provides a haunting score. Where Corbijn missteps is pacing what turns out to be a rather spare plot – the story idles a bit in the third act.

That’s a small flaw, however. Well crafted and superbly acted, “A Most Wanted Man” stands as one of the best films of 2014.

‘A Most Wanted Man’ is currently in theaters.

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‘Red Rock West’ still rocks, 21 years later

Red Rock West posterRed Rock West/1993/Red Rock Films/98 min.

Nicolas Cage’s new movie “Joe” is being hailed as Cage’s comeback. It’s a meaty role in a dark film about desperate people doing bad things, to be sure.  But I like my degenerates a bit more clever and I kept thinking of Cage’s terrific turn in the smart and stylish neo-noir “Red Rock West.” It’s now 21 years old and I think it improves with age.

In playing Michael Williams, an ex-Marine looking for a job in a dusty Wyoming town, Cage creates an uncommonly sympathetic character. Rejected for a spot on an oil-drilling crew because of his bad leg, Michael figures he’s got nothing to lose by stopping into the Red Rock West tavern, the hub of a bustling metropolis of 200 people.

Brooding tavern-owner Wayne Brown (J.T. Walsh) mistakes Michael for a hitman known as Lyle from Dallas (damn those Texas license plates). Wayne wants his wife, Suzanne (Lara Flynn Boyle), out of his hair forever. Before Michael’s picked up a buzz, he stumbles into a quagmire of serpentine deception and murder for hire.

Since he accepted the cash, Michael gives it a go, but changes his mind when he gets an eyeful of the raven-haired, fine-boned Suzanne – a flinty, ferocious femme fatale – and hears her side of the story, including a chapter in which she wants Michael to kill Wayne. “Being married does strange things to people,” she tells him.

Nic Cage and Lara Flynn Boyle remind us of Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer.

Nic Cage and Lara Flynn Boyle remind us of Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer.

Michael hits the road but comes to a screeching halt as he nearly drives over a body, who, it turns out, is Suzanne’s ex-lover. Then the real Lyle from Dallas (the inimitable Dennis Hopper) shows up. Lyle from Dallas don’t take kindly to another man messin’ with his hard-earned hit money. Natch.

It also turns out that Wayne works two jobs – tavern owner and, gulp, town sheriff. Actually make that three – pre-Red Rock, he and Suzanne robbed a bank in Illinois for about $2 million. Suzanne don’t take kindly to anybody messin’ with her haul from the robbery so, with Michael in tow, she sets out to stake her claim, then vamoose South of the Border. But, in the end, Michael isn’t quite the slave to cash that she is and when she finally heads out of town, it’s not quite in the style she’d been planning.

Dennis Hopper plays the "real" hitman from Texas.

Dennis Hopper plays the “real” hitman from Texas.

At 98 minutes, “Red Rock West” is a taut, sexy, funny story that lingers at the right spots and lurches forward just when you were getting cozy. The scene in the graveyard where the four principals dig up bills and duke it out, then plug and pierce the night away is stellar. As they go through bullets, blades, a sword and chains, Hopper snarls, Cage seethes, and Boyle shows prowess with a pistol. Fine performances, all around.

Director John Dahl, who co-wrote the script with his brother Rick, taps 1940s film noir roots with their exploration of shifting identities, appearance vs. reality and the range of motivations that drive people to create their own moral codes. Cage’s disillusioned dreamer recalls the laconic sadness of a young Robert Mitchum, though Cage’s part doesn’t quite allow him to plumb the depths of darkness. Boyle recalls the regal beauty of Gene Tierney and the cool intensity of Jane Greer.

The story is set in a dusty Wyoming town.

The story is set in a dusty Wyoming town.

Infused with humor, the script meditates on the role that luck plays in our lives. We see that Cage has borne Fortune’s smiles and blows. At one point, upon finding his gas tank near empty, he mutters, “F’ing story of my life.”

Natives of Billings, Montana, the Dahls set the film not in a claustrophobic or hostile big city but in sunny Western climes, which work well to highlight Cage’s isolation and desperation. Country singer and actor Dwight Yoakam plays a grimy a truck driver who gives Cage a lift and Yoakam’s mournful “Thousand Miles From Nowhere” is a fitting conclusion to the film’s score. (Dahl started his career directing shorts and music videos.)

After 1989’s “Kill Me Again” and “Red Rock,” John Dahl made “The Last Seduction” in 1994 as well as “Rounders” in 1998 and “You Kill Me” in 2007. He’s also worked on many high-profile TV shows like “Breaking Bad,” “True Blood” and “Dexter.” We hope he and Nic Cage can hook up again – a slick thriller, or a jet-black TV series, perhaps? We’re waiting impatiently.

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Enchanté: COLCOA film fest hits LA

coloca-logo5[1]The City of Lights City of Angels (COLCOA) Film Festival, a fixture in Los Angeles for 18 years, shows new and classic French films at the Directors Guild in Los Angeles. The fest runs April 21-28.

This year’s fest offers another prime schedule of French motion pictures. “We Love You, You Bastard” (or Salaud, on t’aime, to be French about it), the latest film by Claude Lelouch, is the opening night film.

Lelouch, a New Wave writer-director (auteur), won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival with his 1966 “A Man and a Woman” (or Une Homme et un Femme). He conquered movie art-houses and has been active ever since. This new Lelouch movie stars two venerable French rock stars Johnny Hallyday and Eddy Mitchell in a story about sowing wild oats and dealing with the results.

What is showing to tempt noiristas? Well, 1960’s “Purple Noon,” one of the great film noirs, starring Alain Delon and Maurice Ronet. This gripping thriller was directed by Rene Clement, based on a novel by the American expatriate crime writer Patricia Highsmith and dazzlingly shot by Henri Decae. It screens at 1:45 p.m., on Tuesday, April 22.

our-heroes[1]le-dernier-diamant[1]Then, there’s the highly popular Film Noir Series on Friday, April 25. Can’t wait! At 5:30 p.m. is the North American premiere of “Our Heroes Died Tonight” (Nos héros sont morts ce soir). Set in early-1960s Paris, this minimalist noir, written and directed by David Perrault, plunges into the seedy world of semi-professional wrestling where backroom dives smell of Gauloise and sweat, and the fights are all rigged.

At 7:30 p.m. Eric Barbier’s heist thriller “The Last Diamond,” makes its international premiere. Starring Bérénice Bejo and Yvan Attal, the film follows in the tradition of Jean-Pierre Melville’s “Le Cercle Rouge.” The carrot for the crooks is mighty pretty: the fabled Florentine, a 137-carat yellow diamond last seen in 1918, which has resurfaced and is up for sale in an exclusive Antwerp auction house.

amourcrime[1]

venus-in-fur[1]The Larriere Brothers’ crime drama “Love is a Perfect Crime” plays at 10:30 p.m. Adapted from “Incidences by Philippe Dijan, whose other novels inspired the films “Betty Blue and “Unforgivable,” this chilly thriller revolves around a University of Lausanne student who goes missing. The top suspect? Her professor and lover, natch. “Love is a Perfect Crime” stars Mathieu Almaric, Karin Viard, Maiwenn and Sara Forrestier. This is the film’s West Coast premiere.

The late, great François Truffaut will be honored Friday.

The late, great François Truffaut will be honored Friday.

There are two other enticing events on Friday. The massively influential but too mortal (and gone too soon) French auteur François Truffaut will be remembered at a 1:30 p.m. screening of his very personal 1977 tale of a femme-chaser “The Man Who Loved Women,” starring Charles Denner as the Man, and Brigitte Fossey, Nathalie Baye and the supremely piquant Leslie Caron as some of the Women. There will be a talk on Truffaut after the movie.

At 8:30 p.m., that brilliant and elusive Polish-American-French cineaste, Roman Polanski will be represented by his latest film “Venus in Fur,” based on the masochistic novel by Leopold Sacher-Masoch and David Ives’ play from it. “Venus” stars Polanski’s muse-mate Emmanuelle Seigner as an extroverted actress who shows up after hours to read for a part.

la-belle-et-la-bete[1]the-murderer-lives[1]On Saturday, at 11 a.m., the one French film of this year’s glittering menu that you absolutely don’t want to miss: the 1946 fairytale treasure “Beauty and the Beast,” written and directed by Jean Cocteau. Josette Day stars as Belle and Jean Marais as Bete. The film was photographed (lustrously) by Henri Alekan, scored (hauntingly) by Georges Auric and technically advised by Rene Clement, who we suspect, had more to do with the film‘s impeccable, fantastic technique than just advice.

If fairytales aren’t your tray of gateaux, there’s a brutally real alternative: “Abuse of Weakness,” a fierce semi-autobiographical drama by auteur Catherine Breillat about her own fleecing by a famous conman. “Abuse” screens at 7:45 p.m.

“We Love You, You Bastard” rescreens at 1:15 p.m.

Sunday brings the closing session of the competition, but there are two more major French classics on Monday, April 28. At 2 p.m., you can see the great director Patrice Chereau’s 1994 adaptation of Alexandre Dumas’ breathless historical novel “Queen Margot” (La Reine Margot). Chereau’s film stars Isabelle Adjani and Daniel Auteuil.

And at 3:30 p.m. there’s another film noir, a black-and-white ‘40s classic: “The Murderer Lives at No. 21” by Henri-Georges Clouzot. French stage and screen actor Louis Jouvet stars as the relentless detective Wens.

The COLCOA screenings are at the Directors Guild, 7920 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 90046.

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The Film Noir File: Oscar-winning ‘Nights of Cabiria’ is stylish darkness from Fellini

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

Pick of the Week

Nights posterNights of Cabiria” (1957, Federico Fellini). 12 a.m. (9 p.m.); Friday, April 11.

Federico Fellini takes us into the sordid, sinful, falsely glamorous, sometimes oddly appealing and sometimes dangerous night world of Roman prostitution. He and his actress wife Giulietta Masina (the magical waif of “La Strada”) create one of their most memorable characters: the childlike, hard-luck whore, Cabiria – unlucky in love, but lucky in cinema. While the buoyant but put-upon Cabiria is batted back and forth among a succession of awful johns and lovers – a thief, a philandering movie star and a gentle-eyed suitor who may be a killer – she becomes a figure of almost Chaplinesque charm and resilience. Co-written by Pier Paolo Pasolini, costarring Francois Perier, and Amedeo Nazarri, with a wonderful, typically lilting score by Nino Rota. It’s one of Fellini’s masterpieces, and the Oscar winner as 1957’s best foreign language picture.

Is it noir? Well, at least partly. In fact, imagine the same story, shot the same way, in the same stylish black-and-white, but with English-speaking actors in an American city (say, Los Angeles or New York), and you’re thinking, more than likely, of another noir. Of course, the actual American remake, Bob Fosse’s colorful “Sweet Charity,” with Shirley MacLaine, is somewhat brighter and more sentimental, but it was a musical. If anyone was a maker of noir musicals, though, it was Fosse. And, if anyone was a poet of the dark sides of the city, it was Fellini. (In Italian, with subtitles.) [Read more...]

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Noirish sci-fi ‘Under the Skin’ is both artful and annoying

Under the Skin posterUnder the Skin/2013/Film4, BFI et al/108 min.

“Under the Skin,” a noirish sci-fi film by Jonathan Glazer (“Sexy Beast,” “Birth”) is austere and visually striking, inscrutable and haunting. It’s also a meditation on what it’s like to be a woman in contemporary society. Or not.

The “woman” here is an alien in disguise, played by Scarlett Johansson, who has come to Earth to hunt men. After climbing into the pretty skin of an expired human, she dons a fluffy black wig and tarty clothes, and applies a bright pop of color to those famous pouty lips.

Her trap set, she drives a van through the streets of Glasgow and seduces her victims, leading them, zombielike, into pools of black gunk. Then the tables turn; she shows vulnerability and becomes the hunted.

Shot on a low-budget often with hidden cameras and using a mix of professionals (like Johansson) and non-actors, “Under the Skin” feels dually creepy – it tells a strange story and, reportedly, the everyday Scotsmen she picks up didn’t recognize the raven-haired, English-accented Johansson or know that a movie was being made.

Glazer artfully creates a mood of anxiety, dread and mystery – to that end, he puts dashes of Polanski, Hitchcock, Kubrick, DePalma, Scorsese, Cocteau and Buñuel into this cinematic stew. What’s not in the recipe is meat – we get virtually nothing in the way of back story, exposition or even a suggestion as to why any of this is happening (a question that is answered in the source novel by Michel Faber).

Though the spare dialogue adds to the tension, it also keeps us in the dark in terms of a traditional narrative. But perhaps that is Glazer’s point: since we are watching a story of an alien it’s fitting that it unfolds not in a common language but in ambiguous images.

Depending on your taste, “Under the Skin” will be exquisitely harrowing or peculiarly maddening.

“Under the Skin” opens April 4 in New York at the Regal Union Square 14 and AMC Empire 25 and in Los Angeles at the ArcLight Hollywood and AMC Century City 15. On April 4 and April 5, at the Regal in NYC, director Jonathan Glazer will do a Q&A after the 7:20 p.m. shows. The film will expand nationwide throughout April.

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New York’s Ziegfeld Theater celebrates film collaboration of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio

By Mike Wilmington and Film Noir Blonde

Few actor-director collaborations have generated more cinematic excitement and sheer brilliance than the team of director Martin Scorsese and star actor Leonardo DiCaprio – two kings of neo-noir. In their five films together, they have left an indelible stamp on our movies and on our pop culture.

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio around the time of "Shutter Island." Photo by Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY Staff

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio publicize the release of “Shutter Island.” Photo by Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY

DiCaprio was first recommended to Scorsese by the director‘s other long-term actor-collaborator Robert De Niro, who was impressed by Leonardo after playing his father in the 1993 family drama “This Boy’s Life.” DiCaprio and Scorsese joined up in 2002 for the explosive period gangster saga “Gangs of New York” and the rest is neo-noir history.

DiCaprio and Scorsese and their chemistry will be celebrated this Thursday and Friday (Feb. 13 and 14) in New York City at Bowtie Cinema’s storied Ziegfeld Theater, with a five-film retrospective.

The retrospective begins on Thursday with afternoon screenings of “The Aviator” (2004) with DiCaprio as Howard Hughes and their Oscar-winning all-star gangster drama “The Departed“ (2006).

The program also includes a live panel discussion at 7 p.m. Thursday with DiCaprio and two other key Scorsese collaborators on “The Wolf of Wall Street“: screenwriter Terence Winter and longtime Scorsese editor Thelma Schoonmaker. Their talk will be followed by a screening of “Wolf of Wall Street,” one of the most controversial of all 2013 American movies, and a multiple Oscar nominee. The discussion will be moderated by critic-filmmaker Kent Jones, a Scorsese collaborator as well.

On Friday, the retrospective continues with showings of the psychological thriller “Shutter Island” (2010) and “Gangs of New York” (2002).

DiCaprio is one actor who’s used his stardom well. And we can’t think of another director who has done more for film noir appreciation and history than Scorsese. The guy has been watching noirs since his Little Italy boyhood and making neo-noirs since 1973’s classic “Mean Streets” (and, arguably, since 1968’s “Who’s That Knocking at my Door”). He also shares his love for the genre with lectures, introductions for box sets and in his “Scorsese Screens” column for TCM’s Now Playing. All that and “Boardwalk Empire” too.

For showtimes and ticket information, visit www.bowtiecinemas.com. The Ziegfeld Theater is located at 141 W. 54th St. in Manhattan.

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Costa-Gavras hits a peak in true-crime thriller ‘Z’

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

Pick of the Week

Z posterZ” (1969, Costa-Gavras). 3:45 p.m. (12:45 p.m.). Tuesday, Feb. 4.

In Greece, in the turbulent 1960s, under the tyrannical reign of “The Colonels,” an extremely popular leftist opposition leader (played by Yves Montand and based on the real-life politician Lambrakis) tries to speak at a political rally. But, before he even arrives, he is frustrated by the Greek police, by obstructionist “regulations” and by a vicious band of hecklers and armed thugs outside the hall. Finally, while crossing the street to the rally, Montand’s political leader is assaulted with a blow to the head that eventually kills him.

The police do nothing, though the killers are well known to them. These deliberately undiligent law enforcers and unresponsive government leaders (namely Pierre Dux) ignore the facts and leads, including one persistent witness (Charles Denner), whom the assassins try to run down in the street s most famous scene and image). But an incorruptible court investigator (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and a crusading young journalist (Jacques Perrin) keep gathering facts and tracking down the guilty.

Greek-French director Constantin Costa-Gavras had had an early ’60s film noir hit with his first film, the cop thriller “The Sleeping Car Murders.” It’s a fast exhilarating murder mystery, based on the Sebastian Japrisot novel, with a cast that boasted many of the same actors as “Z“: Montand, Trintignant, Perrin, and Denner. In “Z,” working with screenwriter Jorge Semprun, Gavras goes further, digs deeper. He exposed a real-life murder and a plot that involved the Greek police, right-wing political parties and government leaders — all part of the oppressive Greek regime.

The film’s impact was enormous. The French-made “Z,” a huge international hit and the 1970 Oscar-winner for Best Foreign Language Picture, is one of the most influential true-crime thrillers ever made. (In French, with English subtitles.)

Wednesday, Jan. 29

Manchurian Candidate poster8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962, John Frankenheimer). With Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and Angela Lansbury Reviewed in FNB on July 18, 2013.

12:15 a.m. (9:15 a.m.). “Pennies from Heaven” (1981, Herbert Ross). Adapted from writer Dennis Potter’s brilliant British TV mini-series, this Depression-era film noir musical was probably star Steve Martin’s finest hour. He plays a traveling salesman, who, together with the ravishing Bernadette Peters, sings and lip-synchs his way to an unplanned career as an outlaw lover on the run. One of the major unfairly neglected Hollywood musicals, and a marvelous neo-noir. Features a wonderful score of vintage period recordings (including the title song) and standout dancing from lanky Christopher Walken.

Thursday, Jan. 30

9:45 a.m. (6:45 a.m.): “The Kennel Murder Case” (1933, Michael Curtiz). William Powell plays the snobbish Manhattan socialite/sleuth Philo Vance as he turns his detecting prowess to foul play at a Long Island dog show. Snappily acted by Powell and directed by Curtiz, and one of the best Golden Age detective series movies.

10:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m.): “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962, Robert Aldrich). With Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Victor Buono. Reviewed in FNB on July 28, 2012.

Sunday, Feb. 2

6 a.m. 3 a.m.: “The Letter” (1940, William Wyler). With Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall and James Stephenson. Reviewed in FNB on Sept. 19, 2012.

6:15 p.m. (3:15 p.m.): “12 Angry Men“ (1957, Sidney Lumet). With Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley and Jack Warden, Reviewed in FNB on June 13, 2013.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “The Lost Weekend” (1945, Billy Wilder). Ray Milland as Don Birnam, an alcoholic writer is left alone by his girlfriend (Jane Wyman) and his brother (Phillip Terry) for a long, lost weekend in New York City. In something close in mood to a German expressionist nightmare, Don will try to sell his soul for a bottle, to find the booze (and the shame) that he’s hidden, and to stumble from (drunken) ecstasy to (withdrawal) agony, from life to near-death, from one empty glass to another.

It’s a noir without crime, but with plenty of guilt and punishment. “The Lost Weekend” won the Best Picture Oscar; Wilder won Oscars for directing and co-writing, and Milland won Best Actor.

The film’s source was the best-selling novel by Charles Jackson, himself an alcoholic writer, and a man who knew whereof he spoke. (The actress playing the hat-check girl in the night club became Wilder’s wife, Audrey Wilder.)

2:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m.): “Spellbound” (1945, Alfred Hitchcock). With Ingrid Bergman, Gregory Peck and Leo G. Carroll. Reviewed in FNB on Jan. 9, 2013.

Monday, Feb. 3

7 a.m. (4 a.m.): “Mildred Pierce” (1945, Michael Curtiz). With Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, Ann Blyth and Zachary Scott. Reviewed in FNB on Dec. 1, 2010.

4:15 a.m. (1:15 a.m.): “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955, Nicholas Ray). With James Dea, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo and Dennis Hopper. Reviewed in FNB on April 13, 2013.

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Face in the Crowd reveals a beguiling portrait-maker

Crowd #9 (Sunset 5), 2013, by Alex Prager

Crowd #9 (Sunset 5), 2013, by Alex Prager

Alex Prager: Face in the Crowd at M+B Gallery in West Hollywood is well worth a visit; the FNB team attended the opening on Saturday night and snapped a few candids (below). The exhibition reveals an artist with an eye for sublime color and masterful compositions as well as a beguiling portrait-maker who deftly mixes kitsch and mystery with humor and poignancy.

Prager, 34, is a self-taught photographer and filmmaker who started shooting after seeing William Eggleston’s color images. A Los Angeles native, her work frequently draws on vintage Hollywood, retro advertising and neo-noir imagery. The new show features large-scale color photographs of elaborately staged crowd scenes that explore the psychological complexities of human interaction, specifically the dynamics of an individual within a mass of people.

“I’m fascinated by the experience of being involved in other people’s lives accidentally,” Prager said, noting that her work has been influenced by time spent in busy cities such as New York and London. “Crowds have always been an interest of mine. It may look like a sea of people, but there are so many interesting stories, all colliding silently.”

Prager directed hundreds of costumed actors on specially constructed sets, creating congested public spaces including an airport terminal, a city hall lobby, a beach and the Sunset 5 movie theater. The stories of the various characters within these crowds culminate in a new film, featuring actress Elizabeth Banks.

Alex Prager: Face in the Crowd will run at M+B through March 8.

AP crowd 1

AP crowd 3

AP crowd 7

AP crowd 8

AP crowd 9

AP crowd 10

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