Last weekend I felt pretty lousy--was it the shortest cold in history? Was it a strangely excessive bout of allergies?-- I will never know. Whatever it was, from Friday to Sunday, thumbs were decidedly down. I was very dismayed by this since I had planned to settle in at the Roxie on Saturday afternoon and refuse to leave until Sunday night.
Another Noir festival? At the Roxie? And it's in FRENCH?
Obviously, this was no time to be lying prone, sneezing and cursing fate. I scraped myself off the sofa, put a box of tissues in a tote bag and shuffled off to infect my fellow citizens, because I was not going to miss this. I was not alone in this sentiment, as it turned out. I have never seen the Roxie so full in my life.
I only had the stamina for two movies on Saturday, but I managed three on Sunday (for which I sat on a chair in the aisle. It was that crowded. Go Roxie!), so I now feel qualified to tell you the primary difference between French and American Noir. And that is: boobs. Oui! While America was in the grips of the Hayes Code, actual bare bosoms were gracing the grand êcran of France. There was also glimpse of the shapely derriere of Brigitte Bardot as she scampered from bath to bed, the thrill of which was intensified because she was not talking at the time.
Did I find Brigitte almost unbearably exasperating in her role as a prostitute who, in a big career move, becomes a kept woman? I am sorry to say that I did. (in the words of my friend Elliot, festival programmer, "Women often feel that way [about Brigitte Bardot].") In fact, if you take a look at the expressions in this still, you basically have the whole movie in a nutshell. "Hi, I'm quite patronizing." "Oh really? Well I'm like a helpless, ultra sexy Disney woodland creature, only whinier, so that should work out."
In fairness, I did see another movie starring Jean Gabin (Voici le Temps des Assassins) and I loved it and him. In fact, you should see it. So much scheming!
Indeed, if you like your Noir with an evil dame doing nonstop scheming (and who doesn't?), you cannot do better than Chair de Poule (Highway Pickup is the English title) the moral of which is: do not marry a hot little number from Marseille and expect her to live cheerfully in an isolated mountain service-station.
Compared to other film festivals in San Francisco, the audiences for which are often fashionable and/or costumed youngsters, festivals at the Roxie feature many hardcore, old-timer film buffs who, it's true, may not be particularly attune to current views on pleated pants, but who know a lot more about everything that flickers by on that screen than you and I ever will. I'm always relieved to find that San Francisco still sometimes looks like the Roxie as much as it looks like, say, Outside Lands.
If you wish you'd been in on the action, it's not too late. This festival was so hugely popular that there are plans afoot to bring more French Noir in December. I will be there. Hopefully without a box of Kleenex.