tom ranieri

Movie Preview: Return to Noir Ville at Cinema 21

Hard-bitten crime films for now and 2 new theaters in the future

By ERIK McCLANAHAN

The latest series over at Cinema 21 is dressed to the nines with femme fatales, cynicism and (not so) happy endings. It’s called Return to Noir Ville, and features eight classic noirs from the time period in which the genre thrived, such as “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” “Night and the City” and “Gun Crazy,” and three neo-noirs, including Robert Altman’s crafty ‘70’s era deconstructionist piece, “The Long Goodbye” and The Coen Brothers’ masterful debut “Blood Simple.” All films will be shown over the next two weeks, starting today, on 35mm.

In the age of digital projection—something the long-time Portland arthouse resisted as long as possible, but has now somewhat reluctantly embraced—seeing these films in their original format, like dropping the needle on a classic jazz record, is without a doubt a rare, special and all-too-fitting experience. But that’s not the most impressive thing about this year’s festival (now an annual event). That would be the decision to stretch the screenings out to multiple weeks, giving moviegoers and diehard cinephiles some breathing room to catch every title if they wish.

Cinema 21 has, in its 86-year existence, always been a one-screen theater, making logistics and scheduling for “Return to Noir Ville” a daunting task. It’s managed to survive every change in technology, distribution and exhibition in the film industry, not to mention the ever-evolving viewing habits of audiences and an increasingly crowded marketplace. But there is major change afoot that will make arranging future noir festivals, and plenty of other exciting film programming, perhaps a little easier.

Tom Ranieri, owner and operator of Cinema 21, is now set to move forward on a major addition to his theater. Just recently, The City of Portland granted Ranieri a building permit to add two new screens. “The Demo is complete,” he stated via email. “If all goes reasonably well, we are looking at opening in August. Praying with crossed fingers here.”

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