Noirvember 2021 In Films
This year was the 12th year of Noirvember! Truly cannot believe how big the tradition has gotten. This year I was on NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour talking all things noir, for Inverse I wrote about the noir roots of Batman, for Letterboxd I wrote about five under the radar neo noir films directed by women, for Nerdist I wrote about ten noir films based on works written by women, and for the Classic Film Collection I wrote about The Hitch-Hiker and a poem about femme fatales. In terms of reviews, I wrote about Passing and The Power of the Dog for Crooked Marquee, Eternals for Moviefone, and Yellowjackets and Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time for The Playlist. For my Moviefone column I interview Joanna Hogg about The Souvenir: Part II, Blerta Basholli about Hive, Julie Cohen & Betsy West about Julia, Danis Goulet about Night Raiders, and Tatiana Huezo about Prayers For The Stolen. Lastly, for Emmy Magazine I wrote about Women In Media’s CAMERAderie program.
As always, you can find everything I watched plus some highlighted favorites after the cut.
- The Devil Thumbs A Ride (1947)
- Madres paralelas (Parallel Mothers)
- Strange Bargain
- The French Dispatch
- Chicago Deadline
- A Lady Without Passport
- Red Notice
- Mark, Mary & Some Other People
- The Guilty (1947)
- I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes
- No Sudden Move
- Clifford the Big Red Dog
- Cats Don’t Dance
- A Rage in Harlem
- The 13th Letter
- The Velvet Underground
- The Web
- The Garment Jungle
- Night Raiders
- All Too Well
- Hell’s Half Acre (1954)
- The Fall of the House of Usher (1942)
- Fragment of Seeking
- Picnic (1948)
- On The Edge
- The Assignation
- The Wormwood Star
- The Four Elements
- Night Has a Thousand Eyes
- The Crooked Way
- Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
- Black Art: In the Absence of Light
- The Electrical Life of Louis Wain
- Highway 301
- Really Love
- The Outside Story
- Swan Song
- Noche de fuego (Prayers for the Stolen)
- Shakedown (1950)
- Sex Bowl
- Matzo Maidels
- After the Break
- Tomboy (1997)
- Greta’s Girls
- Wicked Woman
- Om det oändliga (About Endlessness)
- Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time
- Doraibu mai kâ (Drive My Car)
- King Richard
- Danger Signal
- Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (1938)
- Whiplash (1948)
- Retfærdighedens ryttere (Riders of Justice)
- Violent Saturday
- Red Rocket
- The Well (1951)
- Mädchen in Uniform (1931)
- Nightmare (1956)
- C’mon C’mon
- Across 110th Street
- Baby Boy
- The Velvet Touch
- Licorice Pizza
- Count the Hours!
- A Castle For Christmas
- Lightning Strikes Twice
- This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection
- Her Kind of Man
- Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle
- Aya de Yopougon (Aya of Yop City)
- The Beta Test
- Wild Indian
- Les contes de la nuit (Tales of the Night)
- The Devil and Daniel Johnston
- Desert Fury
- My Name is Pauli Murray
So many faves this month. Truly a great month of cinema for me. Since I couldn’t whittle down what I wanted to write about to a smaller about, I’m going to keep these blurb pretty short. I have a feeling some of these 2021 titles will find their way into my Favorite Fifteen post at the end of the year, so you’ll get longer takes then!
Madres paralelas (Parallel Mothers), 2021 (dir. Pedro Almodóvar)
This will absolutely make my end of the year list, but for now I just want to say that Pedro rarely misses and this may well be Penélope Cruz’s finest performance to date.
Roadblock, 1951 (dir. Harold Daniels)
A great Christmas set noir with Charles McGraw as a low-level insurance agent who falls hard for good time girl Joan Dixon and derails his life when he tries to get on the fast track to riches. This film also features some absolutely stunning location shots around midcentury Los Angeles including a killer finale at the L.A. River.
A Lady Without Passport, 1950 (dir. Joseph H. Lewis)
This one crept up on me and by the end had completely won me over. Incredibly political noir that basically says border patrol is fascist. Great performances from Hedy Lamarr and John Hodiak.
Spencer, 2021 (dir. Pablo Larraín)
Another film destined for my end of the year list. A fever dream of a biopic with Kristen Stewart giving her best, most complex performance yet.
I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes, 1948 (dir. William Nigh)
Another Christmas set noir, this one is an adaptation of a novella by Cornell Woolrich about a hapless couple of married dancers who find themselves entangled in murder, theft, and corrupt cops.
The Velvet Underground, 2021 (dir. Todd Haynes)
Music doc about the rise and fall of The Velvet Underground, but edited like it’s a Jonas Mekas diary film. Watch this with the sound up LOUD.
The Assignation, 1953 (dir. Curtis Harrington)
I really loved the collection of short films by Harrington that Criterion Channel had featured. Very esoteric mid-century L.A. You can feel Maya Deren’s mentorship, but the films are completely unique to Harrington.
The Crooked Way, 1949 (dir. Robert Florey)
Shot by John Alton, this was another film that captured a certain bygone era of Los Angeles that just resonates so deeply.
Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), 2021 (dir. Questlove)
Another doc to be watched LOUD, this is more than just a concert documentary. It’s also a deep interrogation of how Black American culture continues to remain neglected in our collective culture consciousness.
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, 2021 (dir. Will Sharpe)
I’m mostly here for the cats. But I also love a movie about eccentric, sensitive people who just don’t quite fit anywhere.
Swan Song, 2021 (dir. Todd Stephens)
This one hit me deeply. Udo Kier is pitch perfect in the role of a retired gay hairdresser on a road trip through the past for one last job. But it also reflects the changing economics of small town, rural America in a way few films truly get right. It made me weep for my own town that is slowly dying.
The Well, 1951 (dir. Russell Rouse & Leo C. Popkin)
An independently made noir featuring a largely Black cast, this film is still shocking today in how frankly it dissects racism in America. The fever pitch leading up to a near race riot is a feat of editing.
Her Kind of Man, 1946(dir. Frederick de Cordova)
Justice for Zachary Scott, who rarely got roles that were worth his supreme talent!
This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection, 2019 (dir. Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese)
Featuring breathtaking cinematography from Pierre de Villiers, this film from Lestho looks at the human cost of progress. Mary Twala gives a towering performance as a widow who begins to plan her own funeral as her village and its thousands of years of history are threatened when they’re asked to relocate due to plans for a new reservoir.
Desert Fury, 1947 (dir. Lewis Allen)
Lizabeth Scott in Technicolor! Also in the running for the gayest film I’ve seen from the classic Hollywood era.
My Name Is Pauli Murray, 2021 (dir. Julie Cohen & Betsy West)
Cohen and West are on fire this year with documentaries (see, also their Julia Child doc Julia). I had never heard of Pauli Murray before watching this doc and yet I absolutely should have. A nonbinary civil rights and feminist trailblazer, Murray’s impact on modern American society cannot be understated, yet their story is barely taught in schools today. Hopefully this doc will lead a reassessment of their importance.
And with that, my month concluded. I’m planning to cram a ton of 2021 catch-up releases over the next few weeks, but I’m also going to rewatch many of my favorite Christmas movies! I hope you all have a great final month of 2021 (or as best as it can be given ~everything~). See you on the flip side!
Posted on December 1, 2021, in 2021 in Films and tagged A Lady Without Passport, Betsy West, Curtis Harrington, Desert Fury, Frederick de Cordova, Harold Daniels, Her Kind of Man, I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes, It’s a Resurrection, Joseph H. Lewis, Julie Cohen, Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, Leo C. Popkin, Lewis Allen, Madres paralelas, My Name Is Pauli Murray, Noirvember, Pedro Almodóvar, Questlove, Roadblock, Robert Florey, Russell Rouse, Spencer, Summer of Soul, Summer of Soul (…or, Swan Song, The Assignation, The Crooked Way, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain, The Well, This Is Not a Burial, Todd Stephens, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Will Sharpe, William Nigh. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.