Film noir festival in Krivoklat

The town known for its forbidding prison castle hosts an annual festival of crime films

The Film Noir Festival is taking place for the fourth time, and is again at Krivoklat Castle, some 40 kilometers southwest of Prague. (The first edition was at a different castle, so this is the third time at Krivoklat.)

Krivoclat Castle is the perfect setting, as it long served as a prison castle, with criminals locked in its tower.

The festival runs Aug. 18–21 and will offer four days packed with classic crime films. There will also be a special guest — film noir historian Eddie Muller. He is is founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation, which in part works to preserve and restore rare films. The foundation hosts an annual festival in San Francisco. Muller also has written extensively on film noir and also writes his own fiction. He will lead a seminar and a discussion on Aug. 21.

The films in the festival will be in 10 sections, and while film noir is associated with the US in the 1940s and '50s, the films will range from 1912 up to 2016, and come from the US, Germany, Czechoslovakia and France. Note that not all films are English-friendly, so check the schedule before buying tickets. Some of the Czechoslovak noir TV films and the new film I, Olga Hepnarová will have English subtitles. Some other non-English films, though, will be in Czech only or have only Czech subtitles. Organizers are still finalizing this aspect of the festival.

One special focus this year is San Francisco, with four film that use the city as a backdrop. Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo is among them, along with lesser-known gems like The Lineup, directed by Don Siegel, who would later make Dirty Harry.

Film director Otto Preminger, who was showcased at this year's Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, will have three films, including Where the Sidewalk Ends, a dark themed crime film from 1950 featuring a ruthless policeman who goes too far. Two of Preminger's more obscure films, The Whirlpool and Fallen Angel, complete the section.

The late 1940s saw a wave of Freudian noir films, and several of those including Hitchcock's Spellbound are scheduled. Spellbound, starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck, has a bizarre dream sequence by Salvador Dalí. The sectional also includes the 1947 film Nightmare Alley, starring Tyrone Power as a conman in a traveling carnival. The film was not a success when first released but is now considered a classic.

The noir style also spilled over into Westerns. Sam Fuller's Forty Guns and Anthony Mann's Winchester '73 highlight that group. 

Three films based on books by James Elroy make another block, with LA Confidential as the main attraction. The 1997 film has an all-star cast featuring Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kim Basinger.

Two films will be screened outdoors in the castle courtyard, including the festival opening, Detective Story, which stars Kirk Douglas. The other is Spellbound.

The festival closes with The Dark Mirror, a 1946 film starring Olivia de Havilland in a double role as twins.

For more about the festival, including how to get accommodations in the area, see www.noirfilmfestival.cz or www.facebook.com/noirfilmfestival.

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