“I want to bring in young people who are sick of watching the same movies at the multiplex and show them something cool,” says Eddie Muller. The East Bay resident does just that this month with his Noir City film festival, which shows film noir classics and rarities on the big screens of San Francisco. The fourth annual series runs January 13-24 at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre and the Balboa Theater.
Muller is known as the Czar of Noir for good reason. His series of books about noir movies of the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s has won the coal-black hearts of film geeks everywhere; the Noir City festivals have made San Francisco the place to see rare and obscure noir movies, many of which are unavailable on home video. In some cases, Muller knows where to obtain the only remaining print.
Many stars will drop by this year’s Noir City, including Sean Penn, who will present The Pledge, his contemporary noir directorial effort; Farley Granger, star of Strangers on a Train; and James Ellroy, author of L.A. Confidential, who will introduce the 1953 “nuclear noir” Split Second.
For added atmosphere, the Palace of Fine Arts Theater’s lobby will be transformed into the Noir City nightclub and cocktail lounge. Charlie Haden and Quartet West will close out the fest with a Noir Jazz concert on January 22.
The festivals offer a chance to schmooze with film buffs, but the genre keeps Muller busy all year. He’s an expert commentator for a series of noir DVD releases from Fox Home Entertainment. And Muller recently launched the Film Noir Foundation, dedicated to preserving these celluloid gems.
As an author, Muller enjoyed his biggest hit with his recent collaboration with Tab Hunter, helping to write the actor’s autobiography. The book reveals Hunter’s secretly gay life as a Hollywood idol in the 1950s. “There has been more publicity on this book than all my others put together,” Muller laughs. Tab Hunter Confidential, released last October, broke the top 30 on the New York Times Best-Seller list.
Noir City 4 runs January 13–24. Advance tickets recommended, www.noircity.com.