Out of the shadows: My Noir at Cornerhouse

Adam Scovell
My Noir, Cornerhouse, film noir

The arts cinema embarks on a four-month film noir season, including screenings of The Third Man, Mulholland Drive and Sunset Boulevard.

Cornerhouse chose the right time of year to stage its film noir season. As the days get colder and the nights get longer, the genre’s shadowy escapades and dark aesthetic makes for very appropriate viewing. A specially chosen programme of film noir screenings, My Noir runs until December and coincides with the gallery’s current Double Indemnity exhibition

Film noir is a genre that boasts almost guaranteed quality assurance. Even lesser-known pictures display a mature sense of composition rarely seen in the low-budget crime thrillers of today.  Cornerhouse pay homage to this by including two Orson Welles classics in their noir marathon: The Third Man and Touch of Evil. For a film in which his screen time barely adds up to fifteen minutes, Welles dominates The Third Man, almost outshining Joseph Cotton’s complex performance of a pulp Western writer. Touch of Evil sees Welles relish the opportunity to portray morally bankrupt police chief, Hank Quinlan in a film about the crime on the Mexican border. With a cast including Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh, Touch of Evil is a masterpiece of tension.

Film noir is a genre that boasts almost guaranteed quality assurance

As well as the “classic” era of film noir which spanned the 1940s and 1950s, My Noir also acknowledges the genre’s more surreal offerings. Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly displays all the hall marks of a typical noir but a plot twist involving a mysterious box that may or may not contain a nuclear substance gives it a refreshing dose of the fantastical. Even more surreal is David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, which Cornerhouse screens in November.  Initially conceived as a television show similar to Lynch’s Twin Peaks, the film is a multi-layered noir dreamscape with more ambiguity than coherence in its plot.  As a modern noir classic, Mulholland Drive channels many of other films shown as part of My Noir, including Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard.  Wilder’s film explores the dark underbelly of LA through the lens of cinema itself; something Lynch continues to explore in his own work.

Other highlights from the season include Chinatown, Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing and Mildred Pierce which saw Joan Crawford win an Oscar for her performance as self-sacrificing mother. My Noir demonstrates just how defining a genre of film can be when in the right hands at the right time.

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