Now Playing! The Scene of the Crime’s the Thing at Noir City

Paul Schrader's 1978 film 'Blue Collar' takes a deep look at labor relations on a Detroit assembly line. But is it noir? This year's Noir City fest implies as much.

Paul Schrader's 1978 film 'Blue Collar' takes a deep look at labor relations on a Detroit assembly line. But is it noir? This year's Noir City fest implies as much.

You gotta stay one step ahead of the cops—I mean the audience—if you’re the all-hours, whiskey-snorting, snappy-patter proprietor of Noir City. After 15 years of tunneling through the bleakest, bitterest parables of corruption and cynicism that slinked out of Hollywood’s glam studios and the Poverty Row exploitation mills in the 1940s and ’50s, Eddie Muller needed a fresh angle on the whole “crime doesn’t pay . . . if you’re not already powerful and rich” ethos that undergirds film noir.

So Muller’s gone all in on the heist film, redrawing Noir City’s borders beyond American film and even venturing into the 21st century to program “The Big Knockover” (Jan. 20–29 at the Castro). Sure, you can ride along yet again with your favorite bands of doomed outsiders in The Asphalt Jungle, Kansas City Confidential and The Killing. Better yet, revisit or discover next-generation classics like the original The Taking of Pelham 123, Blue Collar, The Brink’s Job and Sidney Lumet’s last masterpiece, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.

While you’re at it, sample some of the top-shelf noir Muller boosted from Italy, France, the U.K., Japan, Germany and Argentina. How’s that Dylan song go? “Steal a little and they throw you in jail / Steal a lot and they make you king.” The house band at Noir City does a first-rate version — even if you ask for it by its street name, “Inauguration Blues.”

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‘Noir City’ runs Jan. 20–29 at the Castro Theatre. For complete program of films (with a surprising number of color titles this year), see here.

Now Playing! The Scene of the Crime’s the Thing at Noir City 15 January,2017Michael Fox

Author

Michael Fox

Michael Fox has written about film for a variety of publications since 1987. He is the curator and host of the long-running Friday night CinemaLit film series at the Mechanics' Institute,  an instructor in the OLLI programs at U.C. Berkeley and S.F. State, and a member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle.

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