Say Yes to Noir — A Festival at the New School

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The following announcement, below, is courtesy Deborah Kirschner, associate director for Arts Communications at the New School.

From April 1-7, the New School will present “New School Noir,” including performances, readings, screenings and discussions focused on the theme of Noir.

The university has brought together, Kirschner told me, an “amazing” roster of talent that includes filmmakers Todd Haynes and Guy Maddin, actress Frances McDormand and musician Marc Ribot to examine this theme from its roots in the 1940s to its relevance today. All events are free and open to the public.

And here is the (redacted) release:

The New School Presents NOIR
University’s First Arts Festival Focuses on Classic American Genre

…The New School will present its first arts festival, which will explore the relevance of the classic genre of Noir and evaluate its meaning today. The festival will include iconic films, hard-boiled storytelling, graphic art, and music inspired by this quintessential American style.…”The Arts Festival reflects the range of artistic and intellectual activity at The New School,” said New School President David E. Van Zandt. “What better theme to launch this first event than Noir — a genre that has influenced a number of the arts, from music to literature, film, and the fine and graphic arts.”

From The Maltese Falcon to Blood Simple, Noir embodies a cinematic style of shadowy expressiveness. Coined by a French critic in 1946, the term originally referred to movies depicting a morally ambiguous world of cynical private eyes, lonely gangsters, femme fatales, and the nihilistic novels that inspired them. But with the passage of time, the term has come to suggest the alienation and disorientation of modern life, characterized by stark silhouettes, sexual frankness, stylized emotion, and the absence of sentimentality.

Organized by James Miller the chair of Liberal Studies at The New School for Social Research; Robert LuPone, director of The New School for Drama; and Robert Polito, director of the Writing Program at The New School, program highlights include:

* Marc Ribot’s Noir (April 2): Sex! Trash! Violence! The noted American composer and guitarist Marc Ribot explores a lonely place: the border between classic noir film scores of the 1940s through 1960’s, and the 1980s no-wave bands who worshipped them. Soundtracks will include re-arrangements of Henry Mancini (Touch of Evil), Andre Previn (Scene of the Crime), Roy Budd (Get Carter), as well as music by the Lounge Lizards, Rootless Cosmopolitans, and new Noir by the artist.

* Blood Simple: Screening and Conversation with Frances McDormand (April 4): A screening of the 1984 classic American neo-Noir Blood Simple-the first feature film by the Coen brothers-is preceded by a conversation with one of its stars, Academy Award-winning actress Frances McDormand, in her screen debut.

* Noir Now: Mildred Pierce (April 7): Acclaimed critic Greil Marcus leads a conversation with filmmaker Todd Haynes (Far from Heaven, I’m Not There) and writer Jon Raymond (Meek’s Cutoff, Old Joy) about their reimagining of the 1941 novel Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain. Premiering on HBO during the festival run, the miniseries stars Kate Winslet in the role made famous by Joan Crawford in the 1945 Warner Brothers film of the same name.

* Guy Maddin’s Lost Films (April 6): Cult filmmaker and New School Hirshon Festival Director-in-Residence Guy Maddin presents a screening of Hauntings, his short adaptations of movies by great directors for which the prints have been lost, which he based on plot synopses found in ancient Variety magazines. Commissioned by the Toronto International Film Festival, this is the U.S. premiere of these works.

* Fant√¥mas (April 5): A rare screening of the 1913-1914 silent film crime serial, based on the series of novels of the same name, is followed by a panel discussion with writers and critics Geoffrey O’Brien, Howard Rodman, Luc Sante, and David White.

* Noir in American Poetry and Fiction (April 5): Poet and New School Writing Program Director Robert Polito joins poet Robert Pinsky and novelist Mary Gaitskill for an evening of readings that explore the deep undercurrent of Noir in American literature. Pinsky will be accompanied by a live jazz ensemble, which will improvise music to his poems.

* A Checkroom Romance (April 2): Featuring a libretto, drawings and direction by acclaimed graphic artist and Parsons The New School for Design professor Ben Katchor and music by Mark Mulcahy, this tragicomedy brings to life one man’s obsession with the architecture and culture of the cloakroom. Commissioned by the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.

* The Femme Fatale (April 5): The noted American film critic and author Molly Haskell discusses the Noir female archetype, in a panel discussion with Susie Linfield, the former editor of American Film; film and culture writer Kim Morgan; and New School professor Laura Frost, author of Blondes Have More Fun: Anita Loos and the Language of Silent Cinema.

* The Letter (April 7): Pulitzer-prize winning composer Paul Moravec and Wall Street Journal Drama Critic and writer Terry Teachout present live arias and video excerpts of their recent opera, The Letter, commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera for its 2009 festival. Based on a play by W. Somerset Maugham, the piece brings together opera’s classic ingredients of lust, adultery and revenge, dished up Noir style.

* Frank Bidart (April 7): Award-winning American poet Frank Bidart, whose work focuses on the origins and consequences of guilt, many times told through the eyes of tragic characters, will read from his masterwork, The Second Hour of the Night. This monumental poem recounts Ovid’s tale of Myrrha’s incestuous love for her father, Cinyrus. “Part of his effectiveness comes simply from his ability as a storyteller,” commented Michael Dirda in Washington Post Book World about Bidart’s work. “You long to discover what happens to his poor, doomed people.”

All events are free and open to the public, but reservations are recommended. All events are subject to change. For a full calendar, visit www.newschool.edu/artsfestival/noir.

…For more information, please visit www.newschool.edu.