Updated: Mar 25, 2020
Daytime highs in San Francisco are running at around 60 degrees. Night time drops to 50. That’s from 16 down to 10 Celsius for the rest of us. Yet here I am, dressed for a Canadian winter, looking and feeling like a waking corpse after a dose of a horrible ‘flu. It’s over but I’m groggy, and leaving the dress sense to the audience at Noir City. And my, do they dress! An in-the-spirit-of-the-thing few arrive in complete 40s and 50s slick. And I mean including the car. Those who don’t have their trench coat and 40s Packard to hand, reach for a hat.
As for transport, they can take an appropriately historic streetcar anywhere along the F Line. The theater itself, movie-palace home to ten days of cinema magic, is two steps from the streetcars’ turnaround in the Castro.
So there’s a hat thing going down at Noir City 18. Men in Fedoras. Women in fancy and very elegant confections of all kinds. My first exhibit is Daryl Sparks, serial hat-model and undoubted milliner’s dream come true. I’m guessing she owns at least 365, but then as festival Promotion Director and Associate Producer I also guess she’s duty-bound to show how it really ought to be done.
Envious I most certainly am. But I cannot compete. In my circle, though maybe not in yours, gone are the days when a lady traveled with hat boxes. All I can muster is a battered Japanese straw sun-shader, shaped like a sou’wester with a flipped-up brim. Frankly, it would be humiliating.
My second, equally elegant exhibit? She has to be this year’s Ms Noir City, Victoria Mature. That's right, Victoria, daughter of Victor, who starred in the opener on a night of British noir; one he made in 1957, with Diana Dors as gangster’s moll and irresistibly pneumatic femme fatale. In the family performance tradition, Victoria also knows how to wear a stunning hat to advantage. What's more, she’s owner of a classically trained voice that knows how to carry a cabaret song, which is a very rare instrument indeed. She’s been onstage this week before curtain up, wowing the Castro’s audiences with it, accompanied by Nick Rossi.
Movies from West Germany, Mexico, Sweden and Poland still to come, before the festival closes Sunday.
AND IN CASE YOU'RE WONDERING ABOUT THE TITLE ...
"If you want to get ahead, get a hat " was a slogan used by the British Hat Council in the 1930s and 40s targeting business men, maybe making use of an American newspaper ad dating back to the early 1900s that read, "Not even the swellest hatters get ahead of us—but the swellest wearers can get a hat of us”. They don't write 'em like that any more!!
NOIR CITY: Seattle: Feb 14-20, 2020
NOIR CITY: Hollywood: Mar 6-15, 2020
NOIR CITY: Austin: May 15-17, 2020
NOIR CITY: Boston: Jun 12-14, 2020
NOIR CITY: Chicago: dates TBD
NOIR CITY: Detroit: Sep 18-20, 2020
NOIR CITY: D.C.: dates TBD