Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre will host the first Nashville Film Noir Festival, with an excellent program of defining films noir from February 1 to March 4 , 2008:
TOUCH OF EVIL (1958)
The camera begins with a time bomb being planted on a car and ends over three minutes and four city blocks later with the car aflame. So goes the legendary opening shot of Orson Welles’ tale of a murder investigation amid the seedier elements of a Mexican border town. Stars Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh and Welles himself. Dir Orson Welles, b&w, 112 min. Touch of Evil – Some Kind of a Movie
OUT OF THE PAST (1947)
Gas station owner Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) is living a simple life in small-town California when his past comes back to haunt him. This is four-star noir complete with the femme fatale, blackmail and the ever-tragic error of judgment. Also starring Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas. Dir Jacques Tourneur, b&w, 97 min.
Out Of The Past – Tourneur’s Mise En Scene
Out Of The Past – Tourneur’s Mise En Scene Revisited
THE LONG GOODBYE (1973)
Initially panned by critics and later hailed a masterpiece, Robert Altman’s tale of Phillip Marlowe (Elliot Gould in a nod to Bogey in The Big Sleep) is an old-school investigator ever at odds with his modern LA surroundings. When a friend asks him for a ride to Tijuana and commits suicide after his wife turns up dead, the police turn up at Marlowe’s house. Then hired by a wealthy wife to find her missing husband, the two cases begin to intertwine. Dir Robert Altman, color, 97 min.
THE KILLING (1956)
Stanley Kubrick’s film filters the fallibility of man and his big plans, a near-constant theme of his full body of work, through the prism of the noir genre. Freed from Alcatraz, a small-time criminal orchestrates a scheme to rob a racetrack of $2 million, but runs into trouble when the wife of a teller learns of the plans. Dir Stanley Kubrick, b&w, 87 min. The Killing: Great But Not Noir
THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3 (1974)
This 70’s thriller substitutes the dark alleys for a New York subway as four men hold hostage a train and demand delivery of a million dollars within an hour. A veteran NY transit policeman leads negotiations with the hijackers and must navigate the red tape at city hall to prevent any death. To be remade by Tony Scott in 2008 w John Travolta as the lead. Dir Joseph Sargeant, color, 104 min.
KISS ME DEADLY (1955)
Shortly after sleazy detective Mike Hammer picks up a scantily clad (sic – naked under a trench coat) hitchhiker, his car is forced over a cliff. He awakens from unconsciousness to find his passenger dead – but it wasn’t the fall that killed her. As Hammer sets out to uncover the woman’s deadly secret and find her unknown assassins, he ignores explicit signs that he should mind his own business. Adapted from Mickey Spillane’s novel. Dir Robert Aldrich, B&W, 106 min.
Kiss Me Deadly: Hollywood Dada
Kiss Me Deadly: Is Mike Hammer Really Such a Bad Guy?
IN A LONELY PLACE (1950) Troubled screenwriter Dixon Steele (Humphrey Bogart), faced with the odious task of scripting a trashy bestseller, has a hat-check girl tell him the story in her own words. Later that night, she is murdered and Steele is a prime suspect. Fortunately, lovely neighbor Laurel Gray gives him an alibi. Will suspicion, doubt, and Steele’s inner demons come between them? Dir Nicholas Ray, b&w, 94 min.
In A Lonely Place: The “Creative” Outsider
In A Lonely Place: A Psychic Prison
THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)
The big bird is the stuff dreams are made of … according to gumshoe Sam Spade (Bogart). When his partner gets snuffed, Spade starts digging around for the murderer. But when the trail leads to a sinister troika intent on nabbing the titular solid-gold bird, Spade must make some tough decisions. .Dir John Huston, b&w, 101 min
THE BIG SLEEP (1946)
Tough-as-nails private eye Philip Marlowe (Bogart) takes on a blackmail case and soon falls for the feisty daughter of a wealthy general (Lauren Bacall). The plot thickens when the murder victims pile up. The film was blessed with stellar talent: Raymond Chandler wrote the novel on which the movie is based, William Faulkner adapted the book for the screen, and Howard Hawks directed. Dir Howard Hawks, b&w, 116 min
Billy Wilder Double-Feature
DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)
It’s murder and love at first sight! Smitten insurance man Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) plots the perfect murder with femme fatale client Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck): Stage her husband’s death to collect double indemnity on his life insurance, and then abscond with the loot. But the lethal duo must first get past a crafty claims inspector who senses something isn’t kosher. Dir Billy Wilder, b&w, 107 min.
Double Indemnity (1944): Proto-Noir
SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950)
Razor-sharp noir in decadent Hollywood! Norma (Gloria Swanson), a faded silent film star plotting her return, employs Joe (William Holden), a struggling screenwriter, to help edit a script that she has penned. As the work progresses, Norma draws closer to Joe, engulfing him in her fiery throes, but Joe wants out. Dir Billy Wilder, b&w, 110 min.
JJ ‘Jake’ Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is a private detective who seems to specialize in matrimonial cases. When hired by a woman (Faye Dunaway) who suspects her husband Hollis, builder of the city’s water supply system, of having an affair, Gittes photographs him with a young girl. In the ensuing scandal, Jake is plunged into a complex web of deceit involving murder, incest and municipal corruption all related to the city’s water supply. Dir Roman Polanski, color, 131 min.
POINT BLANK (1967)
Lee Marvin delivers a potent performance as a gangster named Walker, whose faithless wife and double-dealing partner in crime shoot Walker and leave him to die on Alcatraz Island after a major heist. But he turns up two years later hell-bent on payback in this taut, neo-noir thriller. Dir John Boorman, color, 92min.
Neo-Noir Double Feature
Dir Michelangelo Antonioni, color, 107 min
BLOW OUT (1981)
Dir Brian De Palma, color, 108 min
Michelangelo Antonioni’s BLOWUP is an influential, stylish study of paranoid intrigue and disorientation. It is also a mindscape of 60’s mod London fashions and music (with a deliciously funky score by Herbie Hancock). Professional photographer Thomas saw nothing, yet saw everything. Enlargements of pictures he secretly took a romantic couple in the park reveal a murder in progress. Or do they? Counter that with Brian de Palma’s BLOW OUT, an homage to BLOWUP (and REAR WINDOW) made fifteen years later trading a photographer for a sound effects recordist (John Travolta in a particularly strong performance). Both films take the expansive darkness of noir culture and expose it for how close to the surface of society it really is.
THE BIG HEAT (1953)
Big money, corrupt cops, scalding coffee and one of Gloria Grahame’s best performances as an abused moll turned avenging angel all figure into Fritz Lang’s essential noir about a dedicated cop (Glenn Ford) investigating the murder of his wife. Also starring Lee Marvin as a quintessential sadistic thug Dir Fritz Lang, b&w, 89 min.
The Big Heat: Film Noir As Social Criticism
The Big Heat Revisited
NYC Noir: Scorsese/De Niro Double Feature
MEAN STREETS (1973)
In New York City’s Little Italy, Charlie (Harvey Keitel) deals with the pressures of working his way up the ranks of a local mob while his small-time gambler friend, Johnny Boy (Robert De Niro), threatens to ruin Charlie’s reputation with debts to a loan shark. Dir Martin Scorsese, color, 110 min.
TAXI DRIVER (1976)
Mentally unstable Vietnam vet Travis Bickle (De Niro) drives a nocturnal cab through the sleaziest streets of pregentrified New York City and befriends a child hooker (Jodie Foster). Along the way, the morally righteous Bickle slowly loses his mind, turning into a well-armed, homicidal vigilante. De Niro, director Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader create a violently prophetic, gripping vision of urban decay and insanity. Dir Martin Scorsese, color, 114 min.