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.
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.
“She’s so beautiful, you can’t believe she’s in her ’80s, and she’s so nice,” said TCM’s Robert Osborne about actress Ann Blyth, who co-starred with Joan Crawford in the classic domestic film noir “Mildred Pierce.”
Blyth will discuss the role when the movie screens at the TCM Film Festival, which starts Thursday at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. Osborne told journalists at a roundtable on Wednesday that he was surprised that Blyth wasn’t typecast. “She was so effective as the mean daughter [Veda] that you hated. Why didn’t that affect her career? She played sweet ingénues after that.”
Other festival highlights for Osborne include interviews with other guests and screenings of “Funny Girl,” “Razor’s Edge,” “Cluny Brown,” and “Desert Song.”
The schedule features a strong film-noir component. “The mood is so rich, it’s a prominent part of the festival,” said TCM’s head programmer Charlie Tabesh. “We noticed that it was immensely popular last year. The theme was style and it fit in very well so we wanted to keep it up this year. People like to see these films on the big screen.”
TCM host Ben Mankiewicz also touched on the popularity of noir and guest programming by the Film Noir Foundation’s Eddie Muller. Mankiewicz said he wants to suggest a night dedicated to neo-noir director John Dahl (“Kill Me Again,” “Last Seduction” and “Red Rock West.”)
“Dahl clearly had a keen appreciation of ’40s and ’50s noir,” Mankiewicz said.
We at FNB would love to see a Dahl night. Until then, we can get our fill of these fantastic screenings. And there’s a plethora of photos and memorabilia on display at the Roosevelt. For example, today, before opening night, there’s a special presentation of a suit Humphrey Bogart wore in “The Big Sleep.”
So now it’s back to the Roosevelt! We will be updating on twitter for the rest of the fest.
All photos TM & (C) Turner Entertainment Networks, Inc.
The City of Lights City of Angels (COL•COA) film fest at the Directors Guild in Los Angeles ends Monday night. On the slate are free screenings as well as announcements about awards and contest winners.
In the mood for a trip to Paris? In addition to the City of Light’s usual coolness, I found out about these two shows. Also, as always, there are noteworthy noirista events in New York and Los Angeles.
“The Enchanted World of Jacques Demy,” at Cinémathèque française, presents film clips alongside costumes, photographs, paintings, drawings and sculptures created by artists who were influenced by the New Wave director. Closes Aug. 4.
A 200-foot long garden, created by landscape designer Piet Oudolf, marks the entrance to “No. 5 Culture Chanel,” an exhibition opening May 5 at the Palais de Tokyo. Coco Chanel launched No. 5, now a world-famous fragrance, in 1921. This show surveys art, photographs, films and music from that era, and highlights her plummy social network. (High-profile chums included Picasso and Jean Cocteau). Curated by Jean-Louis Froment. Closes June 5.
The Plaza Hotel in New York is hosting “The Great Gatsby Getaway”contest. One winner and a guest will win film-premiere tickets, a night at The Plaza, plus an f&b credit. The movie hits theaters May 10. Broadway nitty gritty: Alec Baldwin plays a gangster on the lam in “Orphans,” a revival of Lyle Kessler’s 1985 play at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. Closes June 30.
The American Film Institute (AFI) Night at the Movies, a one-night-only event, takes place Wednesday, April 24, at the ArcLight Hollywood, 6360 W. Sunset Blvd. This is a chance to see classic movies with the filmmakers and stars who made them. It’s a great lineup, boasting some top-notch noirs. You can also see the schedule for Classics in the Dome, eight films that will show early next month.
The much-anticipated Turner Classic Movies Film Festival starts Thursday, April 25, and runs through Sunday, April 28. This year’s theme is cinematic journeys. We at FNB will be out at this fest in full force, natch.
The Los Angeles Visionaries Association (LAVA) will host a Dashiell Hammettevening on Saturday, April 27, at the Los Angeles Athletic Club (downtown). Hammett is remembered for for his contributions to hard-boiled crime fiction and his stand against McCarthyism. Join Hammett scholar and granddaughter Julie M. Rivett as she explores her grandfather’s controversial political life, his relationship with Lillian Hellman, and the decades of consequent troubles that have tangled Hammett’s estate. Ticket includes dinner and parking; cash bar.
In the House/2012/Mandarin Cinéma, Cohen Media Group/ 105 min.
“In the House,” a new thriller by François Ozon, made me think of this quotation from Alfred Hitchcock: “I’m a writer and, therefore, automatically a suspicious character.”
In Ozon’s story-within-a-story film, there are two writers – a 16-year-old student named Claude (Ernst Umhauer), precocious and a bit of a pretty boy, and jaded, middle-aged Germain (Fabrice Luchini). With one poorly received novel under his belt, Germain now teaches in a French high school and struggles to endure his students’ mediocre essays.
But his passion for teaching is reignited when he reads some of Claude’s writing –personal, thoughtful and fresh – and certainly far more promising than the work his classmates produce. Germain shares his enthusiasm with his wife Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas) when he brings the assignments home at the end of the day and discusses them with her.
Claude has picked a provocative topic: a voyeuristic account of a classmate’s everyday home life, cozy and comfy, unlike Claude’s apparently more deprived situation. By tutoring Rapha (Bastien Ughetto), Claude gains up-close access to the family, observing their seeming contentment as well as sensing the underlying frustrations of Rapha’s sexy and mysterious mom (Emmanuelle Seigner) and his easygoing, jocular dad (Denis Ménochet).
Against his better judgment, Germain encourages and evaluates Claude’s literary efforts, even though he knows it is a risky experiment. Germain lectures him on the process of writing, the purpose of literature. As Claude’s creative muscle builds, the line between reality and fantasy is blurred, and the stakes are gradually, dangerously raised for all the players in this riveting domestic drama.
I am always curious about the work of director-writer François Ozon, perhaps most famous for “Potiche,” “Swimming Pool,” and “8 Women.” He has an easy touch with bold subject matter, a knack for humor (whether deadpan, dark or absurd) and a talent for making well paced, well acted thrillers that reflect his inventive, sometime s cheeky, vision while paying subtle homage to old-school suspense masters like Hitchcock, Henri-Georges Clouzot and Claude Chabrol.
Where Ozon falters slightly with “In the House” is in the movie’s visuals. Perhaps because it’s based on Juan Mayorga’s play, “The Boy in the Last Row,” Ozon’s version feels a bit too theatrical and stagebound. That said, telling the tales are terrific actors (Luchini, Scott Thomas and Seigner in particular). And, driving the suspense, Claude’s true motivation remains intriguingly elusive throughout.
“In the House” opened Friday in New York and LA at the Landmark.
The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir and neo-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
“Leave Her to Heaven” (1945, John M. Stahl). Monday, April 22, 10 p.m. (7 p.m.).
What’s the most important thing a woman can give to a man? Staggering beauty, brains and breeding? Check, check, check. Sanity, however, does not always make the list, at least in the case of Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) and Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde), the principal characters in “Leave Her to Heaven.” The two meet on a train and marry, tad hastily. Richard soon discovers that beneath his wife’s exquisite surface is a green-eyed monster with murder on her mind.
John M. Stahl’s stylish adaptation of Ben Ames Williams’ best-selling novel of romance and suspense is one of the most unusual of all ’40’s film noirs. For one thing, it isn’t photographed in expressionistic black and white, but in gorgeous color, all the better to set off Tieney’s delicate beauty and that of Jeanne Crain, the gal Richard mistakenly didn’t marry. It takes place not in the city, but in a pastoral lake home, surrounded by green trees and blue sky. Ellen comes from an affluent family; Richard is a writer.
Still, “Leave Her to Heaven” does boast a classic film noir plot and one of the supreme movie femme fatales who’s not the person you want standing behind you on a high staircase, with no witnesses. (With Vincent Price.)
Friday, April 19
1:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m.): “Blackboard Jungle” (1955, Richard Brooks). A movie/pop culture trail-blazer, adapted by writer-director Brooks (“In Cold Blood”) from Evan Hunter’s novel of New York City juvenile delinquency. Glenn Ford is the dedicated new teacher, Anne Francis is his supportive wife, Louis Calhern is the faculty snob and Richard Kiley is the enthusiastic fellow teacher who gets his vintage jazz record collection smashed by his students. Among the juveniles, a stellar bunch, Vic Morrow is the bad kid, Sidney Poitier is the good kid and Paul Mazursky is a creepy little hood. The credits song was the smashing debut of Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock.”
3:15 p.m. (12:15 p.m.): “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955, Nicholas Ray). James Dean became the movies’ all-time romantic teen-age icon when he pulled on his red jacket and played a confused knife-wielding kid named Jim Stark in this lyrical and violent drama of high school crime in the L. A. suburbs. Natalie Wood as Judy and Sal Mineo as Plato make up the rest of the movie’s main threesome of outsiders, the teen hoods include Corey Allen as Buzz, Dennis Hooper as Moose and Jim Backus is the father whom Jim wants to stand up for him. In 1955, Nick Ray’s most famous film was adored by American teenagers and by French intellectual cinephiles and cineastes. It still plays like a fever dream of movie love and violence.
8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “His Girl Friday” (1940, Howard Hawks). With Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell and Ralph Bellamy.
Saturday, April 20
8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Freaks” (1932, Tod Browning). With Olga Baclanova, Harry Earles and Wallace Ford.
Sunday, April 21
10 a.m. (7 a.m.); “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (1988, Robert Zemeckis & Richard Williams). If Raymond Chandler and Chuck Jones had ever sat down together over a few beers, this is what they might have come up with: a fantastic amalgam of classic private eye mystery and brilliant razzle-dazzle Looney Tunes cartoonery – undoubtedly the greatest animated film noir feature ever made. The movie creates an alternate world and a different 1947 Los Angeles, where humans and cartoons co-exist.
Most of the noir detective story archetypes are here – the tough shamus (Bob Hoskins as Eddie Valiant), the murder suspect (Charles Fleischer as long-eared fugitive Roger Rabbit), the femme fatale (Kathleen Turner as cartoon bombshell Jessica Rabbit), the suspicious boss (Stubby Kaye as studio head Marvin Acme) and the formidable lawman (Christopher Lloyd as Judge Doom).
These characters then wonderfully rub elbows with the royalty of cartoondom: the likes of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Betty Boop. The live action and animated stuff are expertly blended and the result is classic neo-noir for the nostalgic and the young at heart. It’s an absolute detecto-delight.