Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Jason goes to Noir City--Sunday, Jan 25th

Just two films (one double-feature) on Sunday. By the way, I should mention that beyond "newspaper" noir, the festival is also focusing on showing double features with an "A" and "B" movie (B movies don't necessarily mean bad--just shorter, cheaper films meant to be the second half of a double feature).

We start with the hilariously homo-erotic Cry of the Hunter. Described as "swamp noir", it's the story of Jory, a Cajun criminal in L. A. He was the driver for a robbery, but he was the only one caught. He refuses to rat on his colleagues, and in fact the only person he'll talk to is Lieutenant Tunner (Barry Sullivan). Ostensibly because Tunner treats him right, but really because Tunner isn't afraid to have a little fistfight with him--followed by a smoke (did I mention it was hilariously homo-erotic). After agreeing to talk to the D. A., the car transporting him gets into an accident and Jory escapes. He goes home to the bayou of Louisiana, but Tunner follows him there. On the surface it's a cat-and-mouse chase story, but really it's a love triangle with Jory torn between his wife and Tunner. Ultimately it becomes a story of overcoming fear and surviving together in the harsh swamp environment. Very, very weird, and not at all subtle.

And speaking of unsubtle, we followed that with one of the most cynical movies I've ever seen. Kirk Douglas plays a fast-talking newspaper reporter in Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole. He's been fired from every newspaper from New York to Chicago, and now practically begs for a job in Albuquerque (line of the movie: "I'll write big news or small news. And if there's no news, I'll go out and bite a dog!"). For a year he labors in the small town, waiting for his big break. And he gets it, when he stops at a small service station/souvenir stand and finds the owner got trapped in a cave-in while searching for old Indian clay pots. He writes it up, jazzing up a few details (like the curse of the Indian spirits in the mountain, the grieving wife, etc). More importantly, he wraps up exclusive rights by getting in good with the sheriff (by promising enough good press to guarantee re-election). But the real kicker is that he convinces the engineer in charge of the rescue that rather than bracing up the tunnel and digging him out, he should drill in from the top. Sure, it'll take longer but be "safer" (for his career, since it means he can milk the story for another week). Yeah, that's pretty fucked up. Very cynical, (depending on your opinion) quite prescient, and left me feeling just a little bit dirty. In other words, a perfect noir film.

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