Sunday, June 11, 2006

SIFF 2006, part 7

Screenings: June 11 - Film Noir Archival Presentations

The Man Who Cheated Himself

The Window

It is very lucky that won those passes, because otherwise, I probably wouldn't have decided to pick up tickets to any archival screenings. I have a tendency to assume that anything that has been made is around somewhere and thus, I could just rent these old films. Plus, I hadn't heard of these films, didn't know the stars, etc.

But this was a really great afternoon at SIFF. While the films were not the greatest that I've seen at the festival, the experience was great for seeing two little known noir films in a whole theater of movie fans. But the highlight was definitely Eddie Muller. He was very funny, informative and gave great introductions to each of the films. Most importantly, he talked about the film noir foundation and their efforts to attention to old films. Knowing that hundreds of films are made and that numerous studio projects get shelved and sometimes are never seen by audiences, I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise that many classic films, even some Oscar winning films, have been lost. No one knows where the prints are or even if there are existing prints. But the noir foundation pulls as many strings as they can to find films that haven't been seen in years. It was fascinating to hear about the foundation's work.

As for the films, The Man Who Cheated Himself is exactly what I expect to see when I hear a film described at film noir. It was about a cop, who tries to cover up a crime because of a dame. It had all of those elements that typifies noir; fedora wearing men, black and white, a crime plot, plenty of smoking, and even a femme fatale. This was a very enjoyable film and it was a nice example of Eddie Muller's description of film noir as "when you know it's wrong, but you do it anyway."

But it was The Window that was the highlight of the day. The Window was about a little boy (Bobby Driscoll) who witnesses a murder, but isn't believed when he tries to tell others. The result is a wonderfully suspenseful thriller that has more than a little in common with Hitchcock's Rear Window.

I really enjoyed this film and now that I've seen it, it isn't shocking that this was a huge hit in 1959. What is surprising is that such a commercially successful film that even won a couple of Oscars, including a best child actor award for Bobby Driscoll, but that Warner Brothers would have lost all prints of this film for decades. So if you like suspense or those now rare films of the children in peril genre, try to catch this film if you get a chance.

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