Saturday, January 25, 2014

Report from Noir City 2014

The first night of the Noir City 2014 film festival in San Francisco...And our visit is off to a pretty good start.

Spent the day wandering around Chinatown, where I found some very interesting DVDs that I'm excited about (more on those later, I'm sure). Went by Lucky Creation Restaurant, a place I've been going for something like 25 years, though it's been years since I've been there. Still, just walking by, one of the waitresses there recognized me through the door, and came to say hello and shake my hand, which was pretty heartwarming and unprecedented. She looks like she's aged about six months in the last 25 years - amazing.

We also went by the three - former - movie theaters in Chinatown. The Great Star, which was the main stem of Hong Kong movie viewing back in the 90s, is still closed, but at least there's now a sign out front with a phone number so if someone wants to rent the theater...Of the other two former Chinese theaters, one is still closed, and the other has been torn down. It's always sad to see a closed movie theater. Given the use-specific design of them, they're hard to repurpose, so they either sit vacant or get torn down. 

Anyway, we got to the very much thriving and alive Castro Theater a little after 6PM, and there was already a line up the block of people hoping to buy tickets. Since we had a pass, we went right in, and got our seats - dead center - right away. The Castro is such a beautiful theater. It's always a real treat to be there, and last night it was especially abuzz with energy and excitement - much of it coming from guys in period suits and dames all dolled up. 

Around 6:30PM, the entertainment started when the Fly Right Sisters, a vocal trio, came out to sing songs from the 40s and 50s. What was cute and charming for 3 or 4 songs got to be a real drag after 30 or 40 minutes. Oh well. 

Then, my favorite part of seeing films at the Castro kicked in, when organist David Hegarty came rising up out of the pit playing the mighty Castro organ. More than a sound you hear, the Castro organ literally vibrates your whole body, and, at least in me, produces something close to a euphoric feeling. Hegarty played four or five songs, finishing with a spirited version of San Francisco, and got everyone clapping and, being that it was 7:30PM - showtime! - ready for the movies to roll. 

But no movies rolled. Instead, San Francisco's Mr. Noir, Eddie Muller rolled out onto stage and talked for 20 minutes. He also introduced Ms. Noir 2014, who was lovely, but then just had to stand there while Eddie gabbed. It could have been a lot shorter, a lot cleaner, Eddie. 
And so, finally, at 7:50PM, the lights went down and Journey Into Fear (1943) started. It's a slight, short film, with a troubled pedigree, but it's fast and fun. I would argue that it's not even film noir, and the way the sell-out crowd was laughing at parts, it played more like comedy. 

Still, what's the difference? We were in a grand movie theater, part of a huge, excited crowd, seeing a classic film on the big screen. What's not to like? 

We ended the evening tired, but happy. And now, we're off to see five more movies today and tonight. It should be a great day. 

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