Now Playing! Noir City Visits Illicit Ports of Call at the Castro

Still from 'The Housemaid,' 1960. (Courtesy of Film Noir Foundation)

Most film noirs involve a crime; in the best noirs, the crime was inspired, instigated or initiated by a woman. Who—it hardly needs to be said—takes a sap or two for a ride. See, as motives go, lust has a stronger gravitational pull than greed. How’s that for a topic for a master’s thesis, or a rye-soaked afternoon discussion-slash-tryst?

One thing we can agree on is that crimes borne of passion are universal. It follows, therefore, that film noir isn’t limited to the boundaries of the continental U.S. Not for the first time, Noir City’s Eddie Muller casts his jaundiced eye overseas for his annual festival of betrayal, amorality and ’50s fashion, unspooling Jan. 24 through Feb. 2 at the Castro.

Argentina is the point of departure for the globe-trotting travelogue of the depths of hell known hereabouts as Noir City: International II. The opening night double feature pairs restored prints of The Beast Must Die, an inexorably plotted revenge yarn, and The Black Vampire, a baroquely stylized reimagining of Fritz Lang’s child-murderer drama M.

Still from 'The Black Vampire,' 1953. (Courtesy of Film Noir Foundation)

France is often viewed as noir’s second home, thanks to a raft of deliciously bitter and smokily stylish movies. Jean Gabin, stoic, world weary and monumental, is a welcome presence in several of these soft-shelled, hardboiled dramas. The great Gabin graces the Castro screen in a Jan. 25 matinee of Razzia (1955) and an evening screening of Any Number Can Win (made eight years later).

South Korea has a dark side, too, don’t you know. Kim Ki-young’s astonishing The Housemaid (1960) takes a solid, stable family of four and pushes it off the rails, down the stairs and into the wood chipper. (Figuratively speaking.) It plays Jan. 26 with Black Hair (1964), showcasing the prolific Jeong-suk Moon (who married director Lee Man-hui) as a yakuza’s moll who embarks on a dizzying revenge tour of sleazy Seoul after she’s raped by an underling and discarded by her lover.

Come to think of it, perhaps there are more powerful drivers than sex and money, after all.

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