Monday, February 1, 2010

Noir City no. 6 (aka Eddie Muller bought me a drink)

"Seems like we always spend the best part of our time just saying goodbye." Angela Vickers

Noir City ended last night with George Stevens' A Place in the Sun (1951). What a beautifully tragic note to end on. As Eddie Muller said beforehand, here are the screen's two most gorgeous people, tormented and suffering and making you depressed. Oh, but those close-ups are worth it. "Tell mama. Tell mama all." 

For me, however, the night didn't end so drastically. I never wanted to blog about personal thoughts or experiences. I wanted this to be strictly a film blog, and I've always been conscious of never crossing that line. However, last night was so special and unexpected, and very closely tied to film and the noir festival in particular that I just have to make an exception. 

As I was getting my ticket outside the theater, dressed in my finest, complete with a black, 1940's hat with veil, and red heels reminiscent of the Victorian Era, I passed by the Czar of Noir himself, Mr. Eddie Muller. We both smiled and he seemed to nod in approval and acknowledgment at my dedication to the evening. The exchange was so quick and brief I didn't have time to thank him for all he has done for classic film. But it quickly dawned on me that that might be a possibility. After all, after attending Noir City for three years now and never running into him once, passing by him now at the start of the evening made another meeting seem not so farfetched. It even seemed to be in the air.

With this hope, my friend Wayde, dressed just as snazzy as I was, and I made our way up to the lounge during intermission. Lo and behold, there was Mr. Muller, who I had never seen in the lounge before. We huddled nearby, waiting for his conversation with another film lover to end. We caught him just as he was on his way back to the stage, and I was able to shake his hand and say thank you. It was rushed, but he listened, and all I wanted to do was say a quick "thanks" anyway. We went back to our seats; I was completely satisfied and expected nothing more of the evening. 

A Place in the Sun was gorgeous and touching and sad, and I wasn't ready for the night to end just yet. So Wayde and I went to a nearby bar and were welcomed by a beautiful interior with a 1940's vibe, and the Andrews Sisters singing "Rum and Coca-Cola" over the speakers. It was perfect, and there were several other fedora wearing customers eager to talk about film once they noticed our attire. One of them joined our table, and not ten minutes later who but Mr. Muller himself came over to us and bought our next drinks. 

He settled down at his own table, directly behind me. We were practically sitting side by side looking in opposite directions, and I had to fight to keep my focus on the rather chatty fellow who had joined Wayde and I. It was quite difficult when I could easily overhear the table behind me discussing Sunset Boulevard (1950) and Raymond Chandler. How close I was to discussing film with Eddie Muller! But I didn't feel right intruding on his party, even if he did buy me a drink. 

It started getting late and Wayde (also my ride home) needed to leave. I was torn. If I wanted to join the party behind me it was now or never. There had already been a quick exchange about this. I admitted I was having trouble ignoring the conversation behind me, and Mr. Muller, who could obviously hear me, suggested I join them. The door was open. After some persistent begging, Wayde (ever the patient and amiable friend) relented and gave me a bit more time-- thank you Wayde! The other fellow at our table and I turned our chairs and were right between Mr. Muller and "The Voice" (sadly, I can't remember his name, but his voice was instantly recognizable). They were discussing the whereabouts of Dashiell Hammett's typewriter. The one, I assume, on which he wrote "The Maltese Falcon". Apparently "The Voice" had actually lived in Hammett's San Francisco apartment at one point, and they were now working to restore it. Perhaps as a literary landmark, I'm not sure. 

Mostly I just listened and enjoyed this moment, hearing these film gurus go through tunnels and down alleyways I hadn't the knowledge or connections to even know existed. There was once a lapse in conversation, and I unashamedly (come on, this was my chance!) asked Mr. Muller what his favorite film noir was. I know he's been asked this question to death, but I wasn't about to pretend originality. I just wanted to know. He looked me straight in the eye and said, "In a Lonely Place". I felt myself smile with approval. I'm not sure if he noticed or not. Wayde and I got up to leave soon after and I thanked Mr. Muller again for the drink. We shook hands, and he said to me, with pure sincerity, "Charmed".

I couldn't have asked for a better finale.


Diana said...

Ms. Zebra,
You ARE a charmer!

Diana said...

I enjoyed your paean to Louise Brooks, Montgomery Clift,Barbara Stanwyck (what a young thing!); but most especially the tribute to the effervescent and incomparable Jean Simmons, whom I've always adored.
Thank You.

Wayde said...

I'm trying to think of a comment, but I think you covered it all . . .

We have to find a way to top this year's experience next year!