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Fog and Shadows 

Wednesday, Jan 15 2014

The first warning sign of San Francisco's utter noirness is how ruthlessly, perhaps desperately, this place pretends never to have black moods. The second is its being the longtime residence of Film Noir Foundation impresario Eddie Muller, whose 12th annual Noir City festival skulks magnificently into the Castro this week. San Francisco actually was a capital of noir films for a while, but they've been made all over the world, as the 2014 festival's international focus attests. Muller's programming agenda, he hopes, will "change many people's long-standing ethnocentric preconceptions about film noir." Accordingly, he's got films from Argentina, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Spain, and England because, yes, those places were psychically devastated after the Second World War too. Thus the exquisitely unbearable tension in The Wages of Fear; the shockingly scary young Richard Attenborough in Brighton Rock; the great Orson Welles cuckoo clock speech in The Third Man; the first electric Toshiro Mifune performance in an Akira Kurosawa film, Drunken Angel; the heist classic Rififi; the fittingly titled Never Open That Door; and many other glamorously cynical delights. Making room, too, for some familiar American noir folk traveling abroad — Fred MacMurray in Singapore, Robert Mitchum in Macao, and Gene Tierney and Victor Mature in The Shanghai Gesture — this year's festival has a lot to live up to. As the tagline says, "It's a bitter little world."

Jan. 24-Feb. 2, 2014

About The Author

Jonathan Kiefer

SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.

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