Batman at Noir Film Festival 2023. Photo: Facebook / Hrad Český Šternberk

2023 Noir Film Fest brings Batman and more to Český Šternberk Castle this weekend

The Czech Republic’s Gothic Český Šternberk Castle, about 40 minutes southeast of Prague, will again become a most appropriate host for the 11th edition of the Noir Film Festival this weekend. Taking place from Thursday, August 24th, to Sunday the 27th, this year’s fest features an engaging lineup of classic film noir gems, Czech contributions to Hollywood, and a special focus on newspaper noir.

This year’s Noir Film Festival also embraces the iconic character of Batman, who has been brought to life through a series of increasingly bleak neo-noir features over the past 30+ years. The section delves into the character’s evolution from a comic book creation to a symbol of darkness.

A diverse selection of Batman films, ranging from Tim Burton’s gothic 1989 classic Batman to Christopher Nolan’s riveting The Dark Knight, the animated comedy The LEGO Batman Movie, and Matt Reeves’ recent The Batman will be presented, showcasing the Dark Knight’s multifaceted presence in the world of noir.

“The Dark Knight of Noir Rises,” Ondřej Čížek, curator of Batman Noir section at this year’s Noir Film Festival, says in a press release. “When cartoonist Bob Kane and screenwriter Bill Finger shaped it in the late 1930s, they drew on four sources of inspiration.”

“Leonardo Da Vinci’s visionary plans for a flying machine determined the shape of the Batwings; Zorro catered to a dual identity and a cave hideout. In the end, however, it was the pulp character and cinematic trash that gave both creatives the hallmarks of noirish darkness.”

This year’s Noir Film Festival also includes a special Czechs in Hollywood section, which pays tribute to the impactful Czech figures who made their mark on the American film industry. Despite not constituting a massive film colony like some other European communities, a number of Czechs still managed to carve their place in Hollywood’s history.

Notable among them are Hugo Haas and Jiří Voskovec, who transitioned from being leading figures in Czechoslovakia’s interwar theater and film scene to becoming character actors in the USA. Presented at this year’s festival are Voskovec’s appearance in Sidney Lumet’s legendary 1957 drama Twelve Angry Men and Hugo Haas’ 1951 American debut Pickup, which he produced, wrote, directed, and starred in.

Gustav Machatý’s 1945 existential drama Jealousy will also grace the screens at Český Šternberk Castle. Although the Ecstasy director was typically uncredited for his work in Hollywood, this project marked a unique endeavor. Actress Florence Marly, whose career brought her from Czechoslovakia to France and ultimately, Hollywood, will be represented by 1949’s Tokyo Joe, in which she starred opposite Humphrey Bogart.

Czech director Ivan Passer’s 1981 neo-noir classic Cutter’s Way, starring Jeff Bridges and John Heard, will also screen at this year’s Noir Film Festival.

“Hollywood – as the entire United States – has always been largely made up of immigrants and their descendants. European Jews, Germans, French, British, Irish, Italians or later Latinos have created the proverbial melting pot whose diversity has helped shape the specific character of American film culture,” says programmer Milan Hain.

“Czechs, or Czechoslovakians, never formed such a massive film colony in Hollywood as, for example, German-speaking emigrants, so they often had to rely on themselves rather than on their extensive professional and personal ties. Still, several of them managed to make a substantial impact.”

The festival’s Newspaper Noir section sheds light on the significant role journalists played in film noir narratives during the late 1940s and early 1950s. These characters, characterized by cynicism, workaholism, and often sex appeal, brought a unique perspective to the genre. Films like 1952’s Deadline – U.S.A. and 1949’s Chicago Deadline, featuring protagonists working in the newspaper realm, will be showcased.

The works of screenwriter and producer Joan Harrison, closely associated with Alfred Hitchcock, will be celebrated in a retrospective at this year’s Noir Film Festival. Her influence on acclaimed films such as Rebecca, Suspicion, and Saboteur will be highlighted, shedding light on her pivotal collaborations with the Master of Suspense.

Further expanding its horizons, the festival also explores Argentine noir, offering a glimpse into the socio-political landscape of the nation during the mid-20th century. Films like 1953’s The Black Vampire, 1952’s The Beast Must Die, and 1956’s The Bitter Stems showcase the unique narrative tapestry woven during a turbulent period in the history of Argentina.

For more information about the Noir Film Festival’s schedule, tickets, and special screenings, visit the official festival website or follow their social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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