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NYC Film Festivals

New York Noir Smokes Out Summer

By John Lichman

Following its seasonal traditions of samurais and swashbucklers, Film Forum's forthcoming NYC Noir series closes out the summer with the very best in two-fisted tales of seduction, sleaze and crime from an era when men were men, women were femmes fatale and NYU only owned 1/100th of New York.


Smoke and mirrors: (L-R) Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in the 1944 classic Laura, screening July 29 as part of the NYC Noir series (Photo: Film Forum/Photofest)

“It’s a favorite theme of mine,” said Bruce Goldstein, who has organized countless New York-themed series and festivals in his 20 years programming the theater's repertory calendar. But beyond standards like Laura, Force of Evil and the opening-night title Sweet Smell of Success, NYC Noir expands the expectations of the genre, choosing to showcase “the sleazier underside of the city” as seen in later-era color films like 1971’s Klute, the Curtis Mayfield-scored Superfly or subway-terror of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. “They’re just very, very strong New York movies,” said Goldstein, contending that the rough, edgy portrayal of Manhattan is what draws these particular selections out. Take the inclusion of Rosemary’s Baby, for example, which blends the lines of supernatural horror with the overwhelming fear of the unknown --a given in any massive old Manhattan apartment building.

"It makes for a much more interesting series to broaden the definition," Goldstein said. "I think people see what I’m trying to do: Bring all these stylistically diverse looks at New York and not-so nice New York."

Not to mention the classic street-level looks featured in the series' The Silent City sub-section, including The Cameraman, Speedy, The Docks of New York and a selection of outtakes shot in New York between 1898 and 1906. “A lot of these films have shown," Goldstein told The Reeler. "They’re audience favorites. But what I love are the films shot in the late '20s. It’s a wonderful little addition to this series. One reason is that it points out in the silent period there was quite a lot of location shooting in New York.” Many of these films would be set around Coney Island, home to extravagant visuals and unmistakable everyman appeal; their screenings will be accompanied on piano by Film Forum regular Steve Sterner.

But old New York lives on predominantly in noir -- the suits, the dames, even the cigarettes.

"I love images of people smoking," Goldstein said, "and I think [others] find it attractive, even if they don’t smoke -- they find it sexy in old movie images. It’s so iconic, not only for film noir but for old movies. What’s better than a femme fatale with a cigarette dangling out of her mouth? What better image?

"Although," he clarified, "In this case, I couldn’t find a femme fatale, so I used Ray Milland.”

NYC Noir opens Friday and runs through August 30, with The Silent City sidebar screening with live musical accompaniment every Monday from July 30 to August 27. For program and ticket information, visit Film Forum's Web site.

Posted at July 25, 2007 11:26 AM

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