The University of California Institute for Research in the Arts supports embedded arts research through critical exchange

Going South: American Noir in Mexico

July 1, 2011 – July 29, 2011
Pacific Film Archive Theater, UC Berkeley


Mexico—its border and beyond—has long held allure for expats, elopers, and fugitives. The antiquated rituals, the civil turmoil, and the tropical fecundity conspire in an intoxicating culture that offers sanctuary to the absconder. In cinema, Mexico is a welcoming haven where the hoodlum can disappear into the disorder of daily life, aided by corrupt officials serving a sanctioned demimonde of privacy and plunder. Noir finds this dusky place a simpatico refuge. Throughout the forties and fifties, fictive fugitives headed toward the border in desperate flight from apprehension. For some noirs, such as Ride the Pink Horse (1947) or Where Danger Lives (1950), the border is all, a lawless endpoint in a long flight from justice. For others, the interior lays bare its promise of shelter and either foils flight, as in The Hitch-Hiker (1953), or reveals unanticipated dangers, as in His Kind of Woman (1951) and Kansas City Confidential (1952). And then there is lurid love, lost or found below the border in Out of the Past (1947) and The Great Flamarion (1945), torrid and most often terminal. Going South doesn’t just line up these noirs like guilty parties, but asks that we engage the overarching story of fevered escape into Mexico’s landscape of lawlessness and mystery.

Steve Seid
Video Curator

Friday, July 1, 2011
7:00 p.m. Ride the Pink Horse
Robert Montgomery (U.S., 1947). Luckless veteran Robert Montgomery heads for a border town during its annual fiesta to avenge a friend’s death in this atmospheric postwar noir, written by Ben Hecht from a novel by Dorothy B. Hughes. (101 mins)

Friday, July 1, 2011
9:10 p.m. Where Danger Lives
John Farrow (U.S., 1950). Love, noir, and psychosis merge when a psychiatrist (Robert Mitchum) falls for his bewitching patient (Faith Domergue); together they make a run for Nogales, addled and anxious, in John Farrow’s hallucinatory classic. (84 mins)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011
7:00 p.m. Out of the Past
Jacques Tourneur (U.S., 1947). In his first starring role, Robert Mitchum tracks a femme fatale (Jane Greer) for her wronged lover, Kirk Douglas playing a smarmy gambler. The tequila-soaked action takes us from Lake Tahoe to Acapulco and back again in this exquisitely atmospheric noir. (97 mins)

Friday, July 15, 2011
9:00 p.m. The Hitch-Hiker
Ida Lupino (U.S., 1953). Two fishing buddies pick up a hitchhiker on their way to Baja, with predictably homicidal results, in actress/director Ida Lupino’s compact noir jaunt through a pitiless Mexico. Photographed by the great noir cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca. (71 mins)

Sunday, July 17, 2011
5:00 p.m. Kansas City Confidential
Phil Karlson (U.S., 1952). A disgruntled ex-con (John Payne) who is framed for a bank heist takes on the crooks who actually planned it, and discovers them posing as tourists in the seaside resort of Borados. This noir rogue’s gallery includes Jack Elam, Lee Van Cleef, and Neville Brand. (98 mins)

Sunday, July 17, 2011
7:00 p.m. His Kind of Woman
John Farrow (U.S., 1951). This tongue-in-cheek noir comedy assembles Robert Mitchum, Raymond Burr, Vincent Price, and Jane Russell for a frenetic trip down Mexico way, where gamblers, exiled hoods, cabaret singers, and washed-up Hollywood stars all ride their luck. (120 mins)

Saturday, July 23, 2011
6:30 p.m. The Great Flamarion
Anthony Mann (U.S., 1945). Erich von Stroheim is a washed-up vaudevillian in Mexico City, recounting a tale of femme fatales, handguns, and too much alcohol, in Mann’s darkly tragic noir. (78 mins)

Friday, July 29, 2011
9:15 p.m. Touch of Evil
Orson Welles (U.S., 1958). The border is crossed and re-crossed as Mexican narc Charlton Heston grapples with gangsters and Welles’s monumentally corrupt cop in “the apotheosis of pulp” (New Yorker). (111 mins)

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