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Streets of No Return: The Dark Cinema of David Goodis

August 1, 2008 - August 23, 2008

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Moon in the Gutter, August 23

It’s surprising that pulp writer David Goodis never named a novel Cul-de-Sac. His stories conjure a dead end, littered with the wreckage of lonely losers and lowlifes. An ill fate befalls the typical Goodis fall guy, who often glimpses the high life, however fleetingly, but then through some irascible compulsion or sinister defect must stumble back to the seamy streets. Goodis’s own life follows the same pattern: at age thirty, he saw his novel Dark Passage adapted for the screen and parlayed that into a contract at Warner Bros., but his questionable proclivities made him an outcast even in Hollywood. Back in his hometown of Philadelphia, he churned out paperback originals while prowling the seedy saloons with unguarded desire. At age forty-nine, he was dead of cirrhosis. Though Goodis persisted in relative obscurity, his works falling in and out of print, filmmakers mined his shady novels for their criminal content. Jacques Tourneur’s Nightfall and Paul Wendkos’s The Burglar were grim highlights of the American mid-fifties, while across the pond, cinema’s continental ops found his soiled vision most suitable for their noir knockoffs. Truffaut’s fanciful but faithful Shoot the Piano Player was the first in a lineup of a half-dozen suspects, all with a French accent. Goodis’s pulp is not about plot; it’s about the struggles of his beautiful losers to free themselves from sordid obsession and inbred failure. It’s also about Goodis’s smothering fixation with the fall—from grace, perhaps, or just from the curb to the gutter.

Steve Seid
Video Curator

Friday, August 1, 2008
7:00 p.m. Dark Passage
Introduced by Barry Gifford. A prison escapee has plastic surgery and turns out to be Humphrey Bogart: Delmer Daves experiments with a subjective camera in this S.F.-set noir. With Lauren Bacall.

Friday, August 1, 2008
9:15 p.m. The Unfaithful
Introduction by Dan Hodges. Ann Sheridan is a wartime adulteress who pays the price when the troops come home in this dank drama.

Saturday, August 2, 2008
6:30 p.m. Shoot the Piano Player
Introduced by Mike White. A brand-new print of Truffaut’s frolicsome yet faithful genre pastiche, starring a hangdog Charles Aznavour. Repeated on August 5.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008
7:30 p.m. Shoot the Piano Player
See August 2.

Thursday, August 7, 2008
6:30 p.m. Nightfall
Introduced by Eddie Muller. Jacques Tourneur’s noir unravels fall guy Aldo Ray’s paranoid past. With stunning outdoor cinematography by Burnett Guffey.

Thursday, August 7, 2008
8:30 p.m. The Burglar
Introduced by Eddie Muller. A miasma of incestuous desire hangs over thief Dan Duryea and sister Jayne Mansfield in Goodis’s pulpy plot.

Sunday, August 10, 2008
7:00 p.m. Descent into Hell
A boozehound author and his chilly wife go to the tropics to revive their marriage, but Haiti becomes a stand-in for hell.

Thursday, August 14, 2008
6:30 p.m. The Burglars
Starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, this French retooling of The Burglar shifts the action to Greece, with a famed car chase as centerpiece of the high-speed caper.

Thursday, August 21, 2008
6:30 p.m. The Professional Man x Two
Nicholas Kazan in Person. Kazan and Steven Soderbergh directed two totally different TV takes on the same Goodis story.

Thursday, August 21, 2008
8:30 p.m. And Hope to Die
Jean-Louis Trintignant and Robert Ryan in René Clément’s study of pent-up rivalries in a claustrophobic gangland hideout.

Saturday, August 23, 2008
6:30 p.m. Moon in the Gutter
Introduced by Elliot Lavine. Jean-Jacques Beineix evokes Goodis’s murky and haunted world with sinister artifice. Starring Gérard Depardieu and Nastassia Kinski.

Series curated by Steve Seid.

PFA wishes to thank the following individuals and institutions for their contributions to this series: Cinémathèque Française; Sarah Finklea, Janus Films; Barry Gifford; Nick Kazan; Elliot Lavine; Jonathan Marlow; Eddie Muller; Howard A. Rodman; and especially Mike White.