Monday, November 2, 2009

Things to do in Boston When You're Dead: Boston Noir hits Cambridge, Copley.

When one thinks of Halloween, it might call to mind costumes, parties, and seeing scary movies in the theater. This October, though, Cambridge’s famous Brattle Theater (located at 40 Brattle Street in Harvard Square) is putting together a different kind of film revival. “Boston Noir” kicked off this past Friday night, starting up two weeks of pulpy crime flicks set in and around Boston.

As to what sparked the idea of holding a repertory series like “Boston Noir”, it was brought on by the upcoming publication of the literary anthology of the same name, published by Akashic books, an imprint that specializes in like-minded collections in American cities ranging from Brooklyn to Phoenix. The newest entry in their Noir series is edited (and features a short story) by famed Boston crime writer Dennis Lehane (Gone Baby Gone, Shutter Island), and sports the neat gimmick of having each story focus on a different Boston neighborhood, from Dorchester to Cambridge. Lehane himself will be attending the Brattle at five pm on Sunday the 25th to sign copies of the book along with fellow contributors Jim Fusilli, Dana Cameron, Russ Aborn, and Lynne Heitman.

If you live in the greater Boston area and have somehow never been to the Brattle Theater before, you just have to go, and the Boston Noir series should serve as a fantastic, one-of-a-kind introduction. Any Bostonian who saw The Departed in its first theatrical run can attest to the sheer fun of going to a Boston theater to see the city on the big screen in all its dirty, gritty glory (hell, even the brief shout-out to Ted Williams in Tarantino’s recent Inglorious Basterds drew cheers when I saw it on the big screen). Plus, the Brattle just happens to be possibly the best theater in the area when it comes to showcasing vintage prints of really choice movies.

I attended day one of the Boston Noir festivities with a new archival 35 millimeter print of the 1973 classic Friends of Eddie Coyle on Friday. Peter Yates (of Bullit fame) directs fantastic tough-guy actors Robert Mitchum (Out of the Past, Night of the Hunter) and Peter Boyle (Taxi Driver, Hardcore) in a twisted tale of Beantown bank robbers and arms dealers. This once-forgotten film is a noir-lover’s dream, replete with all the standards: shifty crooks, themes of trust and betrayal, and plenty of moral shades of grey. Plus, it’s a veritable filmic treasure trove of familiar locations, with clandestine meetings taking place on the Common or Government Center while the down-and-dirty stuff happens out in Quincy, Dedham, and Weymouth. So pervasive is the film’s use of setting that I was almost surprised to step out of the theater and find myself back in 2009. If you missed the screening, this long out-of-print film was finally released on a typically high-quality DVD by the Criterion Collection.

I hadn’t been to the Brattle in at least a year or so (I forget what I last saw there – either the remastered print of Blade Runner or a Polanski double feature), but it’s nice to see it hasn’t changed much, and where it has is for the better. They continue to unveil new designs for posters and t-shirts that will have film geeks’ mouths watering (I noticed a particularly awesome day-glo poster for John Carpenter’s Halloween). And speaking of mouth-watering, they’re now serving select beers from the Cambridge Brewing Company at all shows after five pm. At $5.50 a pint, it’s a bit pricey, but the Porter is delicious.

“Boston Noir” at the Brattle will continue right up through Halloween (when they’ll make time for their annual screening of Evil Dead II), coinciding with the November 1st publication date of the anthology. Lehane and crew, in addition to their appearance at the Brattle, will also be making a stop at the Copley Square library for the Boston Book Festival on Saturday, October 24th to promote the new book. Upcoming films to be screened in the Boston Noir series include The Departed, Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, The Brinks Job, and The Thomas Crown Affair.

(The Brattle Theater is located at 40 Brattle Street in Cambridge, MA. Ticket prices are $9.75 General Admission and $7.75 for students or at matinee showings. You can get more info at or by calling at 617-876-6837.)

(image "Boston Noir" by Francisco Marty obtained via Brattle Theater image obtained via

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