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Building Noir

August 19, 2013


From Benjamin

In Berkeley and NY there are concurrent retrospectives on now featuring films based on the novels of Belgian author Georges Simenon. I haven’t yet read the books, but if the many adaptations are any indication, they should be fun: dramatic plots that turn on characters’ disaffected personalities, usually criminals chased by recurring police detective Inspector Maigret; urban locations inhabited by tough or alienated but ordinary working people; and a style of story-telling that is visually suggestive enough to inspire 132 productions on film & television.

Director Béla Tarr’s 2007 The Man From London, (above left), from the 1934 French language novel L’Homme de Londres is thick with foggy atmosphere, long with still camera takes, and spun with a texture of unease that transcends with style what is admittedly a murky storyline.  Director Patrice Leconte’s 1989 Monsieur Hire  (above right) is a master portrait of loneliness and guilt, with surprises of character conveyed by first establishing and then overturning, elegant visual tropes. And “The Man on the Eiffel Tower” (1949) which is available in its entirety on YouTube, has Charles Laughton and Franchot Tone, both acting and (both) in the director’s seat!

For a dark ending to a bright summer, “Cine-Simenon: Georges Simenon On Film” is at Anthology Film Archives through August 21 and Dark Nights: Simenon and Cinema” is at Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive through August 29.

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