WHAT: I haven't seen this film, beyond a few short clips and enough of the uncharacteristically monochromatic opening credits, which feature photographs by Arthur Fellig a.k.a. WeeGee, the renowned New York photographer of the 1930s-1960s. Joe Pesci plays a character based heavily on Fellig/WeeGee. I recently spoke to Eddie Muller, who programmed this film as part of tonight's Noir City festival opening. and had this to say about it:
I'm not gonna say that it's a modern classic or anything like that but there are parts of it that are absolutely spectacular. Mostly the stuff that captures WeeGee at work. That's what is just fabulous. Where he's driving around New York to Mark Isham's score, and he's finding things to photograph. It also fits the theme of this festival perfectly because it's about a newspaper photographer who believes he's creating art. There's a gimmicky crime plot and all this nonsense with Barbara Hershey being threatened by these gangsters, but that's just defined to follow this other thread which is about the difficulties he has having people take his work seriously as art.WHERE/WHEN: Screens tonight only at the Castro Theatre at 9:30 PM.
WHY: The "theme of this festival" Mr. Muller speaks of above is "The Art of Darkness", this year's organizing principle for Noir City, providing excuses to show two dozen films about morally questionable painters, writers, curators, dancers, musicians and filmmakers as well as photographers. Although Muller makes a strong case for photography as a particularly cinematic artistic medium in an excellent, brand-new podcast interview on the Cinephiliacs which touches on several of the same topics as my own just-published Keyframe Daily interview article with him: film restoration, his days as a student in George Kuchar's San Francisco Art Institute class, etc. Muller gives a great interview, and since quite a bit of what we discussed didn't fit into my Keyframe article, I plan to publish more excerpts from our talk over the next several days as Noir City unfolds. Stay tuned.
I'm excited to see The Public Eye tonight, although I wouldn't be surprised if a number of Noir City diehards are feeling more skeptical about the festival's first-ever full-color opening night double-bill (and closing day, come to think of it) and might be tempted to skip tonight in order to catch the Stanford Theatre's weekend presentations of Casablanca and Gilda in 35mm, or the Rafael's 35mm showings of (non-noir, but a big-screen must see) Foreign Film Oscar frontrunner Son Of Saul, which after Sunday is expected to screen digitally, as it's showing in every other Frisco Bay cinema despite its director's preference for 35mm presentation (which I agree with, especially for the format's tendency to exacerbate the disorientation of the opening moments). Because you don't want to miss anything screening Noir City on Saturday or Sunday, right? Especially not Saturday night's international noir showcase. But I'm lucky to have seen Casablanca, Gilda and Son of Saul in 35mm, twice apiece, so I'm ready, willing and able to start following Muller's art theme at the beginning and, hopefully, do my best to follow it to the end next weekend when it closes with 1960s photographic subversions Peeping Tom and Blow Up.
HOW: The Public Eye screens on a double-bill with Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece Rear Window. The Public Eye will screen from a 35mm print. I'm not certain about Rear Window's format.