Repertory Picks

Expressionist Noir Classics in Albuquerque

On Film / In Theaters — Jul 19, 2018

This weekend, the Guild Cinema in Albuquerque, New Mexico, will plunge into the shadows, as the theater launches its fifteenth-annual Festival of Film Noir, a celebration spanning ten days, five double features, and countless criminal acts. The festival will kick off Friday night with a truly inspired one-two punch: Frank Borzage’s Moonrise (1948), a powerful story of violence and guilt with a strong redemptive undertow, sets the stage for Charles Laughton’s one and only film as a director, The Night of the Hunter (1955), a hair-raising southern-gothic tale about a murderous itinerant preacher (Robert Mitchum) stalking the small towns of West Virginia.

As critic Philip Kemp points out in his liner notes for our recent edition of Moonrise, the film shares with The Night of the Hunter a certain fable-like quality, bolstered by bold expressionistic flourishes, that the postwar public was all too quick to condemn. Moonrise was, upon its initial release, “generally regarded as sentimental and anachronistic, a reversion to the despised conventions of silent-movie style; very much the same criticisms, in fact, that a few years later would be leveled against Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter.” Needless to say, in both cases, the charges haven’t stuck—today, champions of the too-often-overlooked Borzage now recognize Moonrise as one of his most emotionally intense films, while Laughton’s battle between good and evil has long since joined the American canon.