Stick ‘em up! The 2017 run of the annual Noir City, the film noir festival held from Jan. 20-29, 2017 at the Castro Theatre, will take an unexpected twist by screening films that fall outside the traditional dark, dangerous and dramatic noir genre. The 15th annual film festival will present eight decades of movies under the theme “The Big Knockover.” Each of the 24 international films will be about hold-ups, heists and schemes.
While a festival about heists than spans 66 years might seem a big deviation from traditional noir, festival producer and host Eddie Muller said the noir genre didn’t end in the late 1950s. “Once you get past the stylistics of [film noir] — black and white, shadows — it’s about desperate people doing desperate things in an effort to beat the system because the deck is stacked against them. That’s the premise of every heist movie ever made.”
Take a break Bogie, Noir City 15 will span film history from black-and-white classics such as jewelry store heist film The Asphalt Jungle (1950), to stunning contemporary thrillers including the German film, Victoria (2015). Audiences can expect to see Marilyn Monroe, Ann-Margret, Walter Matthau, Clint Eastwood and Jeff Bridges (who co-star in 1974’s Thunderbolt and Lightfoot), and Philip Seymour Hoffman light up the silver screen. The roster of directors is equally extraordinary and includes John Huston, Stanley Kubrick and William Friedkin.
Among the festival highlights — if you don’t get held up for your double feature tickets, that is — are a newly restored print of Violent Saturday (1955), a Technicolor spectacle that mixes a bank robbery with a small town melodrama, and a screening of early Fellini film Four Ways Out, which only one 35mm print exists.
The Rust Belt set crime drama Blue Collar, which stars Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto, will screen on Jan. 27. With its scheme to rob a union safe and themes about a toiling middle class, Muller expects the 1978 films to be “an incendiary grenade” that is as resonant today as it was 40 years ago.
“The movies are terrific individually, but viewed as a 66-year chronological storyline, this program is a uniquely powerful experience,” Muller said.
While we’re all for a solid scheme, this year’s theme might have some Noir City fans wondering whether the annual festival and its producer, the Film Noir Foundation — which has rescued or restored approximately two dozen noir films and screened close to 300 — has run out of material.
“This particular theme, heist films, is much richer when the parameters are expanded to include films from different countries and eras,” Meller said. “I think the quality of the films is probably higher than any previous festival. I have shown films from the ’50s that I’m showing because it’s an example of a film, but I’m biting my tongue because it’s not a particularly great movie. This time, I think all of these movies are exceptional.”
Noir City 15, Jan. 20-29, 2017, at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro St., noircity.com