The third installment of the Film Noir Foundation’s (FNF) Noir City Austin filled my weekend. The Alamo Drafthouse’ downtown branch — specifically, Theater 1 — played host to two days and three nights of hard-boiled classics, including a few rarities and new restorations. I want to write about a couple of the films I saw, but let’s start with a bit of an introduction to the roadshow version of Noir City.
Eddie Muller’s Film Noir Foundation has hosted the annual festival of dark films in San Francisco for the past fourteen years. It’s a big deal, in a historical theater, and it attracts celebrity guests on both sides of the screen. A few years ago, FNF branched out, bringing Noir City to agreeable cities around the country. Austin got its first Noir City three years ago; not the week-plus marathon of the Sn Francisco mother festival, but a jam-packed weekend of screenings hosted at the Alamo Drafthouse. The Alamo, it should be noted, has branched out, too, and you’ll even find one in the FNF’s hometown.
Beyond educating and entertaining audiences by presenting great films on the big screen, FNF uses Noir City to evangelize its mission to preserve the history of noir. Film prints fall into disrepair over time. Ownership changes, and the commitment of studios and other rights-holders to preserving films that have little commercial appeal tends to waiver. FNF works with film preservationists, locating missing film elements, and funding restorations. These cleaned up, great-looking prints usually form the backbone of a Noir City event, bringing rarely screened titles, and a much improved viewing experience to film fans.