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18.08.2021
Noir Film Festival 2021
Noir Film Festival 2021

 

Noir without Prejudice

Crossfire (Křížový výslech, 1947, director: Edward Dmytryk)

USA, 1947, 86 min. / Director: Edward Dmytryk
Producer: Adrian Scott (RKO) / Screenplay: John Paxton
Director of Photography: J. Roy Hunt / Music: Roy Webb
Cast: Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Gloria Grahame, Paul Kelly

One of RKO’s hits from 1947 was a career springboard for several famous actors; besides Gloria Grahame, Steve Brodie and Lex Barker, the film also spotlighted the supporting actor Robert Ryan, who played a racist aggressor with psychopathic tendencies. Three months before starring in the iconic film noir Out of the Past (1947), Robert Mitchum portrayed a level-headed army sergeant protecting a group of demobilized soldiers held in Washington under interrogation for murder. The 35-year-old Hollywood screenwriter Richard Brooks, who also started directing in the 50s, wrote The Brick Foxhole which served as a literary original for the film adaptation. The topical issues – anti-Semitism, prejudice and bullying – are all permeated by military disillusion, and the film is a perfect case study of the lives of desperate characters drowning in self-doubt. (Jana Bébarová)

SCREENINGS:

Wednesday, Aug 18, 4 pm, Victor Mature

Sunday, Aug 22, 12.15 pm, U.S. Embassy Hall

 

The Lawless (Mimo zákon, 1950, director: Joseph Losey)

USA, 1950, 83 min. / Director: Joseph Losey
Producer: William H. Pine, William C. Thomas (Pine-Thomas Productions) / Screenplay: Daniel Mainwaring (pod pseudonymem Geoffrey Homes)
Director of Photography: J. Roy Hunt / Music: Mahlon Merrick
Cast: Macdonald Carey, Gail Russell, Johnny Sands, Lee Patrick, John Hoyt

In what was only his second movie, the director Joseph Losey showed an inclination to social and political topics and started to promote a liberal left-wing agenda. The Lawless takes place in Santa Marta – a fictitious town in California which prides itself for being a “friendly town,” but there’s a lot of racial hatred under the surface. A seemingly petty incident (a minor car crash) leads to a violent clash and later to a ruthless persecution of young immigrants from Mexico. Losey doesn’t shy away from portraying social tension and shows us how little is needed to turn law abiding citizens into a fanatical crowd. In the sensitive time of its making, this daring movie attempted to give voice to those who were typically marginalized and oppressed. The director himself realized very soon after what persecution felt like as he became a victim of the hunt for communist sympathizers. (Milan Hain)

SCREENINGS:

Thursday, Aug 19, 12 pm, innogy Hall

Saturday, Aug 21, 3 pm, Nova Cinema

 

The Well (Osudné dopoledne, 1951, directors: Russell Rouse, Leo C. Popkin)

USA, 1951, 85 min. / Director: Leo C. Popkin, Russell Rouse
Producer: Leo C. Popkin, Clarence Greene (Harry Popkin Productions, Cardinal Productions) / Screenplay: Clarence Greene, Russell Rouse
Director of Photography: Ernest Laszlo / Music: Dimitri Tiomkin
Cast: Richard Rober, Edwin Max, Harry Morgan, Barry Kelley, Maidie Norman

The movie is based on a true story from 1949 and it will be familiar to everyone who have seen the nerve-wrecking TV drama Everybody’s Baby: The Rescue of Jessica McClure (1989) – a girl falls into a well and her rescuers race to get her out alive. The Well is, however, specific in that the story is set in a multiracial US town. Before the citizens realize that the African American girl is stuck deep underground, speculations start running wild about her being kidnapped by a white-skinned stranger, and a problem is born. The first half therefore focuses on the gradually intensifying malice between the black and white neighbours. The Well was produced independently and without any stars, nevertheless, you might recognize a couple of familiar faces starring as supporting characters – Harry Morgan who got famous later for his part in the M*A*S*H (1972–1983) series, or Tom Powers who had portrayed the poor husband of Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity (1944). (Milan Hain)

SCREENING:

Friday, Aug 20, 4 pm, innogy Hall

 

Retrospective: Ida Lupino

Hard, Fast and Beautiful (Americké děvče, 1951, director: Ida Lupino)

USA, 1951, 78 min. / Director: Ida Lupino
Producer: Collier Young (The Filmakers) / Screenplay: Martha Wilkerson
Director of Photography: Archie Stout / Music: Roy Webb
Cast: Sally Forrest, Claire Trevor, Carleton G. Young, Robert Clarke, William Hudson

In 1950, Lupino directed a very courageous movie called Outrage which has opened the topic of rape and its impact on the female psyche which had been perceived as taboo in Hollywood before. Unfortunately, this film is not available on any medium in a quality suitable for the big screen and cannot, therefore, be presented at the festival. Another piece directed by Lupino was an adaptation of a book by a sports reporter/writer John Robert Tunis, Hard, Fast and Beautiful!, which brings us among professional tennis players. The movie is a study of the relationship between an ambitious mother (Claire Trevor) and her talented daughter (Sally Forrest). Through these two characters, it attempts to give a general testimony about the woman’s role in the modern world, and the price she has to pay for building a successful career in terms of her relations with those around her. Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan, her co-star from the noir movie On Dangerous Ground (which was shot almost simultaneously with this movie), appear in cameo roles. (Milan Hain)

SCREENING:

Saturday, Aug 21, 3.45 pm, U.S. Embassy Hall

 

The Hitch-Hiker (Stopař, 1953, director: Ida Lupino)

USA, 1953, 71 min. / Director: Ida Lupino
Producer: Collier Young (The Filmakers) / Screenplay: Ida Lupino, Collier Young
Director of Photography: Nicholas Musuraca / Music: Leith Stevens
Cast: Edmond O’Brien, Frank Lovejoy, William Talman, José Torvay, Jean Del Val

Not Wanted, Never Fear, and Hard, Fast and Beautiful! may criticize the contemporary American society and its institutions but they are rarely labeled as typical noirs. The very opposite is true, however, for The Hitch-Hiker, an exciting thriller inspired by the true story of a mass murderer Billy Cook who killed six people between 1950 and 1951. This movie is very probably the only classical noir produced in the US that was directed by a woman. Paradoxically, no prominent female roles are present in this movie: we are following two men on a fishing trip, who are soon joined by an unexpected passenger – a wanted criminal Emmett Myers. The film is fast paced and offers charismatic lead actors (especially William Talman portraying a psychopathic killer on the run), and some impressive camerawork by the noir veteran Nicholas Musuraca. (Milan Hain)

SCREENINGS:

Wednesday, Aug 18, 6.45 pm, Victor Mature

Saturday, Aug 21, 12 am, U.S. Embassy Hall

 

Amnesiac Noir

Somewhere in the Night (Někde v noci, 1946, director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz)

USA, 1946, 108 min. / Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Producer: Anderson Lawler (Twentieth Century-Fox) / Screenplay: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Howard Dimsdale, Lee Strasberg
Director of Photography: Norbert Brodine / Music: David Buttolph
Cast: John Hodiak, Nancy Guild, Lloyd Nolan, Richard Conte, Fritz Kortner

One of two films by Joseph L. Mankiewicz selected for this year’s festival shows the Chandler-like knotted and enigmatic story intertwined with accidental encounters and minor characters jumping in and out of the narrative. A fast-paced plot with quick dialogues delivered in a playful language requires an attentive viewer who is in turn rewarded by funny intertextual references. The male protagonist without a past, portrayed by the charismatic John Hodiak in his first starring role (he passed away nine years later, at the age of 41, from a heart attack), is an original variation on several noir archetypes – the war veteran, the fugitive and the PI. The subjectivity of the narrative keeps even the basic information away from the viewer. Teamed-up with the hazy-minded protagonist, it lets them grope in the dark, face the fear of the unknown and experience the omnipresent angst and paranoia. (Jana Bébarová)

SCREENINGS:

Thursday, Aug 19, 6 pm, Nova Cinema

Saturday, Aug 21, 6.15 pm, innogy Hall

 

The Chase (Štvanice, 1946, director: Arthur Ripley)

USA, 1946, 86 min. / Director: Arthur Ripley
Producer: Seymour Nebenzal (Nero Productions) / Screenplay: Philip Yordan
Director of Photography: Franz F. Planer / Music: Michel Michelet
Cast: Robert Cummings, Michèle Morgan, Steve Cochran, Peter Lorre, Jack Holt

At the 7th Noir Film Festival in 2019, we have already introduced writer Cornell Woolrich by screening four film adaptations of his work. However, we have not yet exhausted the entire list. The Chase, directed by Arthur Ripley, is in many ways indicative of the general characteristics of Woolrich’s work; as James Naremore says: „obsessive characters tend to suffer from amnesia and alcoholic blackouts or fall into situations in which nobody believes them. Many of his plots border on the fantastic or have an is-this-happening-or-am-I-crazy quality.” Produced by Seymour Nebenzal, this independent film is interlaced with shocking plot twists and bizarre motives which keep the viewers in their seats. The camerawork was done by Franz Planer, a native of Karlovy Vary, and the noir icon Peter Lorre plays the supporting role. (Milan Hain)

SCREENING:

Friday, Aug 20, 11.15 am, innogy Hall

 

High Wall (Vysoká zeď, 1947, director: Curtis Bernhardt)

USA, 1947, 99 min. / Director: Curtis Bernhardt
Producer: Robert Lord (MGM) / Screenplay: Sydney Boehm, Lester Cole
Director of Photography: Paul Vogel / Music: Bronislau Kaper
Cast: Robert Taylor, Audrey Totter, Herbert Marshall, Dorothy Patrick, Warner Anderson

An ex-military pilot Steven Kenet (Robert Taylor), who suffered a severe brain injury in the war, is accused of murdering his unfaithful wife Helen (Dorothy Patrick). Since he cannot remember the events of that night and doesn’t want to get the death sentence, he commits himself beyond the “high wall” of a mental hospital. With the help of his doctor Ann Lorrison (Audrey Totter), he tries to get to the bottom of the entire situation. The film, directed by Curtis Bernhardt, is structured as a psychological study of an emotionally and mentally disturbed protagonist. It is praised for the visual aspects of Paul Vogel’s camerawork (Lady in the Lake /1947/ or A Lady without Passport /1950/) and the MGM studio architects. The film is dominated by sophisticated shot compositions that visualize the main character’s feelings of imprisonment and hopelessness. (Milan Hain)

SCREENINGS:

Wednesday, Aug 18, 6.15 pm, innogy Hall

Saturday, Aug 21, 10 am, U.S. Embassy Hall

 

The Clay Pigeon (Hliněný holub, 1949, director: Richard Fleischer)

USA, 1949, 63 min. / Director: Richard Fleischer
Producer: Herman Schlom (RKO) / Screenplay: Carl Foreman
Director of Photography: Robert De Grasse / Music: Paul Sawtell
Cast: Bill Williams, Barbara Hale, Richard Quine, Richard Loo, Frank Fenton

In this early film noir, the emerging director Richard Fleischer showcased his unique style: feel for a concise story, dynamic plot and thrilling action. In the brisk time of an hour, he presents the story of an ex-POW who lost faith in himself in a gripping B-movie format. It grabs the viewer’s attention right at its unique entrée set in a military hospital showing one blind war veteran trying to suffocate another just as he is waking up from a coma only to fall back into it several times throughout the film. The noir crime takes place with war atrocities in the backdrop and once again we are shown a world of chaos full of accidental encounters – with the sadist ex-warden, the informer and the not-so-mournful widow. For screenwriter Carl Foreman, The Clay Pigeon was a steppingstone to the war epics The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and The Guns of Navarone (1961). (Jana Bébarová)

SCREENING:

Friday, Aug 20, 12 am, U.S. Embassy Hall

 

The Crooked Way (Levárna, 1949, director: Robert Florey)

USA, 1949, 90 min. / Director: Robert Florey
Producer: Benedict Bogeaus (La Brea Productions) / Screenplay: Richard H. Landau
Director of Photography: John Alton / Music: Louis Forbes
Cast: John Payne, Sonny Tufts, Ellen Drew, Rhys Williams, Percy Helton

A disturbing story of a war veteran, who sets off to seek the past long gone with amnesia and pieces of shrapnel in his skull, is a visually powerful film directed by Robert Florey in his unique avant-garde and expressive style. The fascinating and dynamic shots, which would make fine paintings in their own right, were co-created by prominent Hollywood cameraman John Alton. He used his well-known conceptual work with the dark to paint an impression of the protagonist’s dark and clouded mind which no longer dwells in the present. The Crooked Way shows a chaotic world where you cannot trust anyone, and you are constantly on your toes waiting for somebody to stab you in the back. A world where you escape the past by going into the war and vice versa. A whole universe of broken values and lost ideals, rotten and amoral, where women have to deal with violence on a daily basis and the ex-aggressor becomes a hero of the day. And where promises mean nothing. (Jana Bébarová)

SCREENING:

Sunday, Aug 22, 2.30 pm, U.S. Embassy Hall

 

Coen Brothers: Noir Praksters

Blood Simple (Zbytečná krutost, 1984, director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)

USA, 1984, 96 min. / Director: Joel Coen
Producer: Ethan Coen (River Road Productions) / Screenplay: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Director of Photography: Barry Sonnenfeld / Music: Carter Burwell
Cast: John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedaya, M. Emmet Walsh, Samm-Art Williams

The Coen brothers’ feature debut reinterprets traditional noir conventions with subversive creativity, drawing on the revisionist approach to genre filmmaking of the New Hollywood generation of filmmakers of the late 1960s to mid-1970s. Made outside the context of studio production, the film was a breath of fresh air in American cinema at the time and received acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival (then still called the US Film Festival), the future Mecca of independent film. The sophisticatedly developed plot about a disgraced husband, an unfaithful wife, her lover, and a private detective carries the spirit of James M. Cain’s hard-boiled novels and demonstrates the narrative mastery of the siblings: layering the intertwining perspectives of the four characters and their differing interpretations of the escalating events, provoking not only in them but also in the audience misconceptions about what has happened and what will happen next. (Jana Bébarová)

SCREENINGS:

Thursday, Aug 19, 1.45 pm, Victor Mature

Friday, Aug 20, 6.15 pm, U.S. Embassy Hall

 

Miller’s Crossing (Millerova křižovatka, 1990, director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)

USA, 1990, 115 min. / Director: Joel Coen
Producer: Ethan Coen, Mark Silverman (Circle Films, Twentieth Century Fox) / Screenplay: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Director of Photography: Barry Sonnenfeld / Music: Carter Burwell
Cast: Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, John Turturro, Jon Polito, J. E. Freeman

This noir gangster film is set in the anonymous industrial city of the late 1920s Prohibition era. It opens up the themes of loyalty and betrayal in an organized crime environment where no one trusts anyone. The film was born out of Joel and Ethan Coen’s desire to tell a story in a Hammett-esque way. However, the intricate plot and dense dialogue passages paying homage to Dashiell Hammett’s “hard-boiled” novels were ultimately the reasons why Miller’s Crossing was a commercial flop in its day. Indeed, the film demands an attentive audience – not only because many of the dramatic twists and turns are tied to information shared in the conversations of a number of supporting characters, but also because the protagonist is a professional schemer and liar (and a gambler and alcoholic to boot). The unpredictability of (not only) his actions is a pillar of this character study of rotten individuals who are after each other’s throats. (Jana Bébarová)

SCREENING:

Sunday, Aug 22, 9.30 am, U.S. Embassy Hall

 

Fargo (Fargo, 1996, director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)

USA, 1996, 98 min. / Director: Joel Coen
Producer: Ethan Coen (Working Title Films, PolyGram) / Screenplay: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Director of Photography: Roger Deakins / Music: Carter Burwell
Cast: Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, William H. Macy, Harve Presnell

The (attempted) perfect crime is an essential theme of film noir. Fargo, which has become a cult film over the years and whose audience popularity was made use of by the TV series of the same name (2014–2020), is an apt example of how the perfect crime turns out when planned and ill-thought out by amateurs. Through the Coens’ lens, professional, super-smart criminals in control turn into incompetent losers who get caught up in their own stupidity. Additionally, the filmmakers moved the noir plot from the squalor of the big city to the snowy American backwoods and sent a sheriff in the advanced stages of pregnancy, concerned primarily about what and where she can eat, on the trail of a crime initiated by a fool who ordered his wife’s kidnapping in order to fleece his wealthy father-in-law of money. Fargo is one big, fun romp – including the successful hoax of being based on true events, which the Coen pranksters have long enjoyed at the audience’s expense.  (Jana Bébarová)

SCREENINGS:

Thursday, Aug 19, 11 am, Nova Cinema

Friday, Aug 20, 1.45 pm, U.S. Embassy Hall

 

The Man Who Wasn’t There (Muž, který nebyl, 2001, director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen)

USA, 2001, 119 min. / Director: Joel Coen
Producer: Ethan Coen (Good Machine, Gramercy, Working Title Films, Mike Zoss Productions) / Screenplay: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Director of Photography: Roger Deakins / Music: Carter Burwell
Cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, Michael Badalucco, James Gandolfini, Katherine Borowitz

Like Blood Simple, The Man Who Wasn’t There carries the traces of the novels of James M. Cain, an author who was interested not in underworld criminals but in ordinary people with ordinary jobs and their domestic melodramas that turn into crime stories through chance encounters. Such is the case with a taciturn, boring barber (Billy Bob Thornton) whose desire for the American Dream results in crime and who, ironically, is tried for something he didn’t do. In addition to literary sources and classic film noirs (the distinctive black-and-white stylization, the protagonist’s voiceover), the Coens reference Hitchcock’s film Shadow of a Doubt (1943) through the setting (Santa Rosa) and early 1950s science fiction films through the evocation of the mindset of the inhabitants of American suburbia in the post-war period (assumed war heroism, existential angst, the threat of atomic war, fear of invasion from outer space). (Jana Bébarová)

SCREENING:

Saturday, Aug 21, 5.45 pm, U.S. Embassy Hall

 

Tribute to Bette Davis

Beyond the Forest (Tam za lesy, 1949, director: King Vidor)

USA, 1949, 89 min. / Director: King Vidor
Producer: Henry Blanke (Warner Bros.) / Screenplay: Lenore Coffee
Director of Photography: Robert Burks / Music: Max Steiner
Cast: Bette Davis, Joseph Cotten, David Brian, Ruth Roman, Minor Watson

Bette Davis playing a role of a seductive femme fatale was rather an oddity in her acting portfolio. The unscrupulous gold-digger in the noir melodrama Beyond the Forest, who is bored by the countryside and desires the big luxurious city life, doesn’t shy away from intrigues and traps. Davis’ performance thus created one of the most malicious noir femmes fatales. The country doctor’s wife stops at nothing with the coolness of the spineless Ellen Berent from Leave Her to Heaven (1945, screened at the 1st NFF), constantly dissatisfied and yearning for a change like Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, all in a tragic dimension worthy of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. In retrospect, the story shows what led the protagonist, now facing a murder charge, to several dramatic events fatally impacting her life as well as that of the citizens of her hometown in Wisconsin. (Jana Bébarová)

SCREENINGS:

Friday, Aug 20, 4.15 pm, U.S. Embassy Hall

Saturday, Aug 21, 1 pm, innogy Hall

 

Tribute to Victor Mature

I Wake Up Screaming (Budím se s křikem, 1941, director: H. Bruce Humberstone)

USA, 1941, 82 min. / Director: H. Bruce Humberstone
Producer: Milton Sperling (Twentieth Century-Fox) / Screenplay: Dwight Taylor
Director of Photography: Edward Cronjager / Music: Cyril J. Mockridge
Cast: Betty Grable, Victor Mature, Carole Landis, Laird Cregar, William Gargan

I Wake Up Screaming plays out a Pygmalion-like plot: three friends – a sports promoter, a columnist and an actor – fall for attractive waitress Vicky and make a pact to make her a star. Their plan succeeds – the young woman becomes a sought-after model and the offer from Hollywood comes soon after. However, before Vicky can leave New York, she is murdered and suspicion falls on her “creators”. The charming promoter Frankie (Victor Mature) has the weakest alibi and the police detective (Laird Cregar), who (along with other individuals) was fanatically obsessed with the dead woman, is determined to discredit him. Frankie is aided in his efforts to prove his innocence by Vicky’s sister Jill (Betty Grable). The adaptation of Steve Fisher’s novel impresses with its distinctive noir style in lighting and camerawork and the recurring musical motif from the famous song “Over the Rainbow”. (Jana Bébarová)

SCREENING:

Friday, Aug 20, 6.30 pm, innogy Hall

 

Special Screenings

CinemAbility: The Art of Inclusion (CinemAbility, 2018, director: Jenni Gold)

USA, 2018, 97 min. / Director: Jenni Gold
Producer: Jenni Gold (Gold Pictures) / Screenplay: Jenni Gold, Samuel W. Reed
Director of Photography: D. Scott Dobbie / Music: Erik Lundmark
Cast: Jane Seymour, Ben Affleck, Gary Sinise, Marlee Matlin, Jamie Foxx

In her documentary film CinemAbility, director, writer and producer Jenni Gold demonstrates through interviews with prominent Hollywood figures, as well as dozens of films excerpts and their analysis, how the identity of disabled characters in films and TV shows has been shaped over time and how the media has influenced the public’s view. A range of topics are discussed, such as the portrayal of disabled characters by able-bodied actors and actresses, and humor and stereotypes in the portrayal of disabled people. Examples include films such as Rain Man, Million Dollar Baby, Avatar, Freaks, Bride of Frankenstein, Sorry, Wrong Number, Midnight Cowboy, The Miracle Worker, Miss Susan, Happy Days and Breaking Bad. Both information-packed and entertaining, the film makes a fitting addition to this year’s Amnesiac Noir section. (Veronika Zýková)

SCREENING:

Friday, Aug 20, 10.30 am, U.S. Embassy Hall

 

Celý program ke stáhnutí zde.