While every film blogger and general cinephile is seeing how Woody Allen and Jodie Foster’s latest offerings play out at Cannes, this lover of vintage cinema is looking forward to what he considers to be the year’s most exciting film festival: Noir City Austin. Once again, the Film Noir Foundation, in conjunction with the Austin Film Society, returns to Austin, Texas and to the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz to present a weekend full of smoldering femme fatales, gruff anti-heroes, crooked cops, and angel-faced dames in titles both familiar and obscure, all of which are hosted by the Film Noir Foundation’s Eddie Muller.
Naturally there are the typical noir staples which thankfully populate every Noir City. Stars such as Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake in This Gun for Hire will kick off the festival as Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson headline the ensemble feature Flesh and Fantasy, one of Saturday’s most anticipated highlights. Meanwhile, beloved noir helmer Fritz Lang directs Robinson and Joan Bennett in Scarlet Street, the flip side to the director’s classic The Woman in the Window. Such titles, stars, and directors are not only welcome at Noir City, but expected as modern fans scramble and delight at the chance to see these people and stories on the big screen.
Each film, most of which fans will instantly recognize, comes as part of a double feature, showcasing a strategically programmed B-side. The move of showcasing each screening as a double feature is especially exciting for fans wishing to experience a trip to the movies in a time when double features were the law of the land. More than that, however, the B-sides feature a collection of titles recently unearthed and singlehandedly brought back to life by the Film Noir Foundation. Most, if not all, are nowhere to be found on DVD, and some, such as Destiny starring Alan Curtis, haven’t been screened for decades, making Noir City even more of a unique experience in comparison to other film festivals.
One of the more interesting aspects about Noir City for me has always been the way the festival has continued to educate its audience with regards to the definition of a film noir. This year proves no different, as seen by undertones of screwball in the Sidney Sheldon-penned Fly-By-Night and supernatural in The Seventh Victim starring Kim Hunter. Elsewhere in the festival, sociopolitical commentary is at the heart of the John Garfield/Maureen O’Hara-starrer The Fallen Sparrow, while mental illness plays a pivotal role in My Name is Julia starring Nina Foch. It is precisely this kind of lineup which truly shows that regardless of the subject matter, the noir stain can turn up anywhere.
As always, proceeds from Noir City Austin will go to benefit the Film Noir Foundation and aid them in their continuous efforts toward restoring and preserving these rare and valuable films. While the world becomes increasingly digital and 35mm seems to be the exception rather than the standard, the mission of the Film Noir Foundation proves more important than ever. The weekend is a chance for lovers of film noir to revisit classics on the big screen and catch little-known gems for the one of the few times they will ever be shown, proving a one-of-a-kind experience for each and every audience member. Without even realizing it, those in attendance serve as a beacon of hope for a cherished genre and art form that is thankfully far from being forgotten.
Noir City Austin runs from Friday, May 20th-Sunday, May 22nd at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz. For tickets and information, please click here.