If you’re new to my monthly Film Noir Releases posts, welcome! My goal is to cover all the first-time releases to Blu-ray and DVD, usually passing over reissues unless there’s a good reason to include them. (I also tend to leave out more recent films.) Unless otherwise noted, the following are all North American Region A Blu-ray discs. I often use the terms “film noir,” “neo-noir,” and “noir-stained” rather loosely, so while you may quibble with some of my choices, I hope these are films you’ll at least consider. As always, if you know of any film noir, neo-noir, or noir-stained titles I’ve left out, please let me know in the comments below. And thanks for reading.
Welcome to the bleakest month in new film noir releases since I started this monthly report five years ago. Unless we have additional titles cropping up during the last few days of the month, I only have four releases for you in August, none of which fall into the category of classic film noir, and some of those are just barely noir-stained, but perhaps these will tide us over until we can reach a (hopefully) more promising September. Cross your fingers…
Diva (1981) Jean-Jacques Beineix (Kino Lorber)
With all the current technology at our fingertips, the premise of Diva seems quaint, if not downright antiquated: World-famous opera soprano Cynthia Hawkins (Wilhelminia Wiggins Fernandez) has never had her voice recorded, insisting on being heard through live performances only. A young Parisian delivery carrier named Jules (Frédéric Andréi), obsessed with classical music in general and Hawkins in particular, sneaks a tape recorder into a packed opera house and secretly records the soprano. But Jules soon has another illegal tape to deal with, accidentally discovering a recording of a prostitute (Chantel Deruaz) exposing a senior police official (Jacques Fabbri) as the leader of a drug and prostitution racket. With two different groups of people coming after him for two different tapes, Jules must be very smart and very careful.
Diva has been about as hard to find on DVD as Hawkins’s recorded voice is in the film. An Anchor Bay DVD from 2001 once sold for ridiculous prices, but thanks to this Blu-ray release, everyone can enjoy this wonderful French thriller. This new release is also loaded with commentaries, interviews, and much more. Whether this is technically noir or not, you should check this one out.
Hollywoodland (2006) Allen Coulter (Kino Lorber)
For over half a century, people have speculated over what really happened to actor George Reeves, star of the TV show Adventures of Superman (1952-58), whose mysterious death has been the subject of countless articles, books, and movies like this one. With Hollywoodland, director Allen Coulter has crafted a fictionalized account of the death of Reeves (Ben Affleck) with PI Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) imagining several different scenarios: Murder? Suicide? Accident? (The best version of the Reeves death that I’ve run across is in a book called The Fixers: Eddie Mannix, Howard Strickling and the MGM Publicity Machine by E. J. Fleming) Although the film received wildly mixed reviews, Affleck earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance, and the film also features Diane Lane and Bob Hoskins. Extras include two audio commentaries by director Allen Coulter and author/journalist Bryan Reesman, as well as three featurettes (“Re-creating Old Hollywood,” “Hollywood Then and Now,” and “Behind the Headlines”), deleted scenes, and a theatrical trailer.
Trick Baby (1972) Larry Yust (Scorpion Releasing)
Based on a novel by Iceberg Slim, Trick Baby is a film I’d never heard of before, but am eager to check out. I think you might be, too. A seasoned Philadelphia con man named Blue Howard (Mel Stewart) takes advantage of his young biracial partner Johnny “Folks” O’Brien (Kiel Martin), nicknamed “White Folks,” since Johnny’s dad was a white john, and his mom a black hooker. Since White Folks looks white, Howard uses him to swindle wealthier marks. After being found out for passing cut glass off as diamonds, Blue Howard and White Folks flee to Chicago for every con man’s dream: one last big score, which involves waiting all night to collect their earnings from a safe deposit box that won’t open until the next morning. In the meantime, they have to hold out against cops, vengeful marks, and gangsters, all of whom carry some serious racial tensions. From what I’ve researched, many consider Trick Baby more of a clever ‘70s heist film than a typical blaxploitation movie. Although the extras are scant (a new interview with director Larry Yust, a radio spot, and a theatrical trailer), I’m looking forward to picking this one up.
The Burnt Orange Heresy (2019) Giuseppe Capotondi - Sony Pictures Classics Blu-ray (MOD)
I typically don't cover recent movies, but this one has a connection I can't ignore. When Milan art expert James Figueras (Claes Bang) has just about had enough of a routine existence as an art lecturer and critic, he meets a mysterious American woman named Bernice (Elizabeth Debicki). At about the same time, James is approached by a wealthy art dealer (Mick Jagger) who wants him to steal a painting from the renowned reclusive artist Jerome Debney (Donald Sutherland). The film is based on a Charles Willeford novel I’ve not yet read, but I have enough confidence in the Willeford novels I have read to know that a good noir tale is undoubtedly within its pages. Whether that story is adapted to the film is another matter, but I'm eager to see it. The movie has received mixed reviews, so proceed with caution. No word on extras.
Again, baring any late entries, that’s going to do it for August. Bleak, I know, but I should have better news for you next month, so hang with me until then. Be well and stay safe.