I’ve always wondered what it’s like to be present at the start of a huge cultural moment, or at least a huge cinematic moment, such as the first pairing of Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. I got a taste of what it must’ve been like during Saturday’s “A” picture, This Gun for Hire. I wonder if Paramount had any inkling of just how popular this pairing would become. (Ladd and Lake made seven pictures together, appearing as themselves in three of them. See listing below.)
Noir City. You might expect darkened back alleys, shadowy figures moving furtively through rain-soaked city streets, the sounds of taxis blaring, police sirens, maybe even gunfire. Instead, on the mezzanine level of the Castro Theatre, you find well-dressed men and women sipping champagne, drinking highballs, talking about John Garfield, Gloria Grahame, Michael Curtiz, John Alton, Raymond Chandler. You also find another area filled with tables displaying hardboiled fiction, detective stories and neo-noir novels, as well as non-fiction works on everything from San Francisco movie locations to tomes on the history of film noir. Between these two areas stands a short man with a face showing the wear of three lifetimes; a bouncer, if you will, checking to make sure only passport-holders (Noir City’s ticket to all movies and festival events) cross from the book tables to the land of fedoras and padded shoulders. The bouncer must’ve recognized me from years past; he gives me a slight nod and I’m in.
You know you’ve got it bad when you find yourself standing outside the Castro Theatre, home of Noir City 16, six hours before the festival’s opening. If you’ve ever attended even one screening at any Noir City festival, you understand how easily someone can fall under the Noir City spell. That spell is strengthened by the attendees wearing 1940s and 50s outfits, the regal ambience of the Castro Theatre itself, and certainly the films. Yet at 1:30pm on the first day of Noir City, those things were only hinted at as I looked up at the marquee. Still, I felt like Walter Neff standing outside Phillis Dietrichson’s house; it was only a matter of time.
I just got back last night from the first half of Noir City 16 and plan on reporting back to you on the five wonderful days I spent there. Right now I’m gathering my thoughts and trying to readjust to Eastern Daylight Time. While I’m doing so, here are a few photos to tide you over until my first Noir City 16 post. Stay tuned!
It’s almost here… Noir City 16, that is. Although I’ll only be able to attend the first half of the festival, I’m so excited I probably won’t be able to sleep tonight (which may work to my advantage, since my flight is super early tomorrow morning). When I return, I plan on reporting back on the films I saw, the places I went, and the people I hope to reconnect with as well as those I hope to meet for the first time. But on to the films:
The Academy Awards nominations were announced yesterday and soon after followed rejoicing, anger, predictions and the inevitable oddsmakers. For many (including scores of movie lovers) this information means absolutely nothing. I’ve actually refused to watch the ceremony for years, but might have to give it a look this year. I’ll have more to say on the Oscars as we get closer to March 4, but in the meantime, I’m pleased to say that I’ve seen seven of the nine nominees for Best Picture and have reviewed five of them. You can find those links below. No predictions or favorites for now, just reviews:
Phantom Thread (2017)
Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Produced by Paul Thomas Anderson, Megan Ellison, JoAnne Sellar, Daniel Lupi
Cinematography by Paul Thomas Anderson (uncredited)
Costume design by Mark Bridges
Music by Jonny Greenwood
Edited by Dylan Tichenor
Focus Features, Universal Pictures
AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center (2:10)
“Whatever you do, do it carefully.”
The same admonishment could’ve been used by Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) to one of his assistant dressmakers, or by his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) to one of her underlings, or by anyone in a position of authority over someone beneath that authority. I’m reminded of John 13:27 when Jesus spoke to Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly,” knowing that Judas was going to betray him. It’s not quite the same as what Alma (Vicky Krieps) tells Reynolds early in the film, but the thought flashed through my mind while watching Phantom Thread: Who really holds the position of authority in this relationship?