Rave: Noir City at the Castro Theatre

One thing I look forward to during this grim time of year is Noir City, San Francisco’s Film Noir festival, which starts tonight.

noircity.jpg
Image from www.noircity.com

I clear my schedule for this festival each year. In fact, I’ve been known to leave a friend’s birthday dinner early and just so I could catch that evening’s double feature.

Noir City has films you won’t find anywhere else. Many of the films aren’t available on DVD, and many of the films haven’t been on the big screen in fifty years or more.

And yet, these are often spectacular movies. They’re suspenseful stories of murder, betrayal, and love gone wrong. They’re set on dark, dangerous streets, and peopled by evil henchmen, loyal detectives and a femme fatale or two. They can be surprisingly funny, sometimes unintentionally (certain comments today mean something quite different than they did in the 1940s).

It’s not just the movies though, it’s the whole experience. Some people come dressed in Noir costumes – men in trench coats and fedoras, women in 40s suits. The audience audibly contributes to the movie experience, hissing at evil characters or politically incorrect statements, and hooting at the fiery dialogue.

What’s more, the festival is at the Castro Theatre, and the Castro is everything the movies promised us life could be: glamorous and unforgettable.

castro_front.jpg
Image from http://www.castrotheatre.com

The theatre is an ornate, cathedral-like space with walls painted with Mucha-like murals and the sky-high ceiling crowned by a huge Art Deco chandelier. It still has a massive, working pipe organ and most nights (all nights of Noir City), there’s someone there to play it.

You know that the movie is about to start when the organ player launches into “San Francisco, Open Your Golden Gates”. Most of the audience claps along with the song as the organ sinks dramatically down into the stage, and the organist takes a bow.

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