If you have never seen a noir film, now’s the perfect chance. The Miami Jewish Film Festival and Miami Beach Cinematheque are celebrating film noir with the screening of three classics in November, beginning with Mildred Pierce on November 7th.
Why Film Noir?
Dr. Michael Gillespie of FIU’s English department, who is currently teaching a film noir course, describes it as a genre “that gives examples of individuals who succeed in resisting dominant authority and provides viewers with an example of someone who sustains his or her integrity.” In other words they are movies about rebels. Selfish, sexy people working for their own gain, these are slick talking, criminally clever characters who never fail to impress.
Film noir started in a time where strict production codes gave filmmakers no choice but to get creative in sidestepping these restrictions. Their use of lighting and camera angles revolutionized how people thought of film. The executive director of the Miami Jewish Film Festival, Igor Shteyrenberg, is understandingly proud to shine a spotlight on “visionary storytellers” with this series. As an event spearheaded by The Miami Jewish Film Festival, it’s no surprise that the three screenings were all created by Jewish Americans or European Jewish immigrants who created the dominant narrative and visual styles of classic film noir.
Noir films tend to focus on the individual while giving us a stylized and sexy detective story to sink our teeth into. Characters have their own moral codes mixed with a disappointment in the world around them, and that resonates with people. We follow these dissatisfied rebels on their journeys to fix the world their own way, because they know if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
Film Noir and America in the 50s
The Killers screening on the 14th will be presented by FIU’s own director of the Film Studies Program, Andrew Strycharski, who had this to say about film noir: “it’s a classic American genre, even more so because it is the product of a number of immigrants that bring the sensibilities of German Expressionism to stories about the underbelly of American culture”. The things that leave a lasting impression on viewers are the complex storylines and creative cinematography that encourage active viewing. The way the directors play with the light and shadows make it nearly impossible to leave a noir film without a favorite shot or scene etched into your consciousness. You don’t just watch film noir, you experience it.
Film noir is an important part of American history. “Film noir was an important reflection of the mood of America during and especially after World War II,” says Dana Keith, director of the Miami Beach Cinematheque. Igor Shteyrenberg says these movies were chosen for the series because “Each of these remarkable films pay tribute to the lives and work of the visionary emigres who left a mark on American movie-making. In incredibly distinct ways, they each distilled the horrors of Nazism and forced exile into their taut, bleakly fatalistic thrillers and dramas which re-visioned the genre as their own.” When you think about it he circumstances surrounding the creation of these works is sad but the way these Jewish Filmmakers poured their emotions and suffering into their craft has left an amazing legacy.
Each of the screenings features a special accompaniment. The screening of Mildred Pierce on November 7th will be hosted by Juan Barquin, member of the Florida Film Critics Circle and founder of the Flaming Classics series and Dim the House Lights. The Killers on the 14th will be hosted by FIU Film Studies director Dr. Strycharski. And for the big event, The Hitch-Hiker will be followed by an interactive archive 1940’s overview reception, including a tour of the digital MBC interactive archive 1940’s section lead by MBC director Dana Keith and a reception featuring Coppola wines. Tickets will be available through the Miami Beach Cinematheque (mbcinema.com) at the following prices: General Admission $11, Seniors/Students $10, MJFF and MBC Members $7
All films shown at the Miami Beach Cinematheque
Mildred Pierce (dir. Michel Curtiz, 1941)
Thursday, November 7 at 7 PM
Hosted by: Juan Barquin
The Killers (dir. Robert Siodmak, 1946)
Wednesday, November 14 at 7PM
Hosted by: Andrew Strycharski
The Hitch-Hiker (dir. Ida Lupino, 1953)
Thursday, November 29 at 7PM
Featuring: Interactive MBC 1940s archive overview reception
Khadijah Brown is an English Major at FIU pursing a Certificate in Film studies.