Report from Noir City 2014 - Part III
File under general thoughts and observations...Overall I've enjoyed the films I've seen thus far, though I would say that not all of them are actually film noir. But they have been interesting and engaging, so I'm not complaining.
Compensating for the lack of a full-on noir effect at the festival, we've had a nicely noir (is that possible?) trip to San Francisco. Given that films noir generally deal with crime and death in some way, we've been with the program from the start. We're staying with a friend who works in the morgue (I'm writing this while sitting in her living room underneath her embalmer's license from the State of California), and when we arrived at her place, the nearest intersecting street was blocked off by police cars. Ah, yes, we're getting in the spirit of things.
Today, we're heading into day five of the festival here, and some patterns have emerged that I think should be noted. Maybe some of the folks putting on the festival will see these notes, and take them to heart.
First and foremost among my observations, and annoyances, frankly, is the way the noir folks just let time slip away from them. Allow me to explain. Now, perhaps I'm being old-fashioned about seeing these old movies, but, in my world the published start time for a movie is meant to indicate the time the movie will start.
But here it has meant that you still have five or ten minutes to wait for someone to come out to introduce the film. Said introductions have been running around 10 to 15 minutes each, with a lot of that time being eaten up by descriptions of, and come-ons for, the film we're just about to see. I mean, the shows have all been sold out, the theater is full, we're all here already. This means, noir folks, you don't need to waste our time trying to sell the film to us. We're here, we're ready, and you're actually standing between us and the movies. Less is more, people.
Saturday was the worst case of this, with a full five movies on the schedule. The last movie of the day was scheduled to start at 9:30PM, but didn't start until 10:15PM. Seeing five movies makes for a long day no matter what; adding nearly an hour to that doesn't add anything to the film festival experience except annoyance. Especially for those of us who start getting worried that we might miss the last bus back to our beds.
Also, Eddie Muller, Mr. Noir, has displayed a disappointing casual sexism whenever this year's Miss Noir has shared the stage with him. Last night, he made at least two comments about her that clearly made her uncomfortable, and I think made members of the audience squirm a little, too. Yeah, Eddie, she's an attractive, (much) younger woman in a form-fitting dress - but that doesn't mean she's just an object. Grow up.
On a related note, every single time - and I do mean every single time - that someone from the Film Noir Foundation has been on the stage to speak, they've made jokes about drinking, comments to encourage the audience to drink, etc. Yeah, I know I sound like a real prude but, come on. For one thing, it shows a lack of creativity, and gets old really fast. For another, I have no doubt that there are film noir fans in the audience who are struggling with addictions and/or recovery and who don't appreciate this kind of would-be hipster "humor."
Anyway, please don't take these comments to mean that the actual celluloid content of the festival hasn't been good - it has. And I will expound on that later in detail. But I just felt I needed to give a little taste of the off screen portion of the festival as well. As stated above, I'd hope that the festival folks will rein in some of these...issues next time, to make for a smoother, more enjoyable experience for everyone attending. (It would also help if they could add about a dozen restrooms to the Castro, but...)