Rear Window and Noir City Opening Night

Friday night I came the Castro for opening night of this year’s Noir City festival. They were screening one of my all-time favorites, Rear Window, along with the obscure Public Eye from 1992.

After grabbing my seat in the 3rd row, I went upstairs to the mezzanine, where I examined the bookstore table. The covers looked fun, but I didn’t buy anything. My backpack was heavy enough already.

This year’s Noir City theme is “The Art of Darkness”–noir stories about painters, writers, musicians, and other creative people who barely make a living from their passion. The opening night double bill focused on photographers.

It clearly wasn’t about clockmakers. The Festival scheduled the double bill in such a way as to guarantee running late. Rear Window was set to screen at 7:30, and Public Eye at 9:30. Rear Window is just five minutes short of two hours.

The festivities started soon after 7:30, with this year’s classical music-themed trailer. Then the “Czar of Noir,” Eddie Muller, took the stage, pointing out that our society is built on money, but our culture is built on art. He introduced the model for this year’s poster (sorry, but I didn’t get her name), and then talked a bit about Rear Window. The movie started at about 7:50.

I’ll be posting a full essay on Rear Window soon for my A+ List. In the meantime, I’ll just say that it’s my favorite Alfred Hitchcock film. A news photographer confined to a wheelchair and his small apartment (James Stewart) has taken to watching his neighbors to relieve boredom. Then he begins to suspect that one of those neighbors committed murder. The movie is thoughtful, funny, and entertaining. The suspense builds slowly to a point that’s almost unbearable. And it says some interesting things about how we live our lives in the modern city.

But I’m not sure it’s really film noir. Most of it is in bright colors, and the murder is dealt with as something strange and unusual, not the inevitable consequence of our sick world.

The Castro screened Rear Window digitally, probably from a DCP. And it was the sort of DCP that gives digital projection a bad name. The long shots were slightly fuzzy with dots that didn’t look quite like film grain. And the close-ups had that ultra-smooth, waxwork look you find in early digital transfers.

Rear Window is a great film to see with an audience. People laughed and gasped in all the right places. Unfortunately, there was a guy sitting behind me who also laughed in all the wrong places–including the death of a small dog. Very annoying.

The movie ended around 9:45–15 minutes after the second feature was set to begin. Ten minutes later, with no hint of the intermission ending, I decided to skip Public Eye and go home. I didn’t want to be up that late.

And besides, I had to finish this article.

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