Monday, January 28, 2013

The Kiss Before The Mirror (1933)

WHO: James Whale, best known as the director of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein.

WHAT: I don't really know anything about this film, and I don't want to know, not before seeing it tonight. All I need to be excited is to know that its' the film Whale made between The Old Dark House and The Invisible Man. A fertile period for the director indeed.

WHERE/WHEN: 8:25 PM tonight only at the Castro Theatre.

WHY: Thirteen of the 264 pages of the handsome new fifth edition of the Noir City Annual, available for sale this week only on the mezzanine of the Castro during the Noir City festival, are devoted to an interview with festival founder Eddie Muller, conducted by Jesse Fankhausen. This interview is a must-read, not only for Noir City supporters, but for anyone interested in the last ten or so years of classic film exhibition in this country, and particularly here in San Francisco. There's more candid information about this festival's storied relationships with the Castro Theatre and other Frisco Bay venues it's been associated with, than I've ever seen committed to text.

At one point in the interview, Muller asks "why haven't other genres gotten this treatment?" It's a question I asked (completely independently- the interview was conducted over a year ago and I didn't read it until yesterday) in my article about last year's festival. I still am not quite sure of the answer, but at the risk of repeating myself, I'll observe again that one of my favorite things about Noir City is that its programming doesn't reflect a genre-purist approach. Noir is its main mission, but the festival is also a showcase for borderline noirs of interest to aficionados and deserving of wider exposure. Already this week's audiences have seen one film that falls in that border zone if not well beyond it: Curse of the Demon, a bona fide horror movie made by a director (Jacques Tourneur) and starring two actors (Dana Andrews and Peggy Cummins) frequently associated with noir

Despite having been made by Whale, I don't believe The Kiss Before The Mirror is a horror film, but nor does it fit anywhere near the traditionally-defined noir period of 1941-1958 or so, having been made in 1933. It's part of a what the festival is calling a "Pre-Code Proto-Noir Triple Bill" along with William Wyler's 1931 A House Divided and the ultra-obscure (only 5 imdb votes!) Laughter In Hell from 1933. I'm grateful Noir City is able to shine its spotlight on pre-code films for the second year in a row. For those of us who can't get enough of seeing the spottily-enforced censorship of the 1930-1934 period on the big screen, and who can't wait for the Roxie's next pre-code series to kick off in about a month, attendance at the Castro tonight is a must.

HOW: All three films tonight screen in 35mm prints.

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