KURJA POLT 9: FILM SOLEIL
“If traditional film noir is night and shadows, then film soleil is daytime and sunny. If noir is luscious black and white photography, then soleil is a bow to the inevitability of colour. If noir is New York, soleil is Los Angeles. If noir is Chandler and Hammett, soleil is Jim Thompson and Charles Willeford. Money is a moral compass in noir, an indice of a character’s depravity, while in soleil greed is good, greed works. If noir is oneiric, drugged, sapped, then soleil is clear, wakeful, sober, and cunning. If noir is booze and cigarettes, soleil is LSD and cocaine. If noir is the city, soleil is the country, but ‘bad’ country, of raised pitchforks, heat, suspicion, and the dusty land where dreams end.”
– D.K. Holm, Film Soleil (2005)
“Film soleil is a reconfiguration of film noir, which means it takes all those frozen noir images and reverses them, it ‘changes the darkened street to a dry, sun-beaten road’, it ‘converts the dark alley to a highway mercilessly cutting through a parched, sagebrush-filled desert’, it ‘gives the woman cowboy boots and sticks her in a speeding car, driven by a deranged man whose own biological drives lead him less often to sex than to fights over money.’ /…/ Film soleil takes what was typical of film noir, its fundamental elements, and ‘turns on the lights.’ The only thing casting shadows here is the sun.”
– Marcel Štefančič, jr., Ekran (March-April 2022)
At Kurja Polt Festival, we love to tackle film archaeology, digging for rare prints, excavating cult classics and obscure genre gems that our cinema projectors have long been missing. This year, with our thematic Retrospective: Film Soleil, we will dig out a film term. In his book Film Soleil, published in 2005 as part of the Pocket Essential series, American film critic D.K. Holm coined a new term denoting a new genre of sun-drenched crime thrillers. Film soleil, he proposed, represents a late evolutionary phase of film noir, which differs from its origins not only in form and narrative, but also in its cultural concerns – attesting to a changed morality and addressing a new worldview. Although Holm dates the official birth of film soleil to 1984 and the Coen brothers’ Blood Simple (1984), in his book he also first tackles archaeology, building a filmography of film soleil’s predecessors and early examples. Holm’s term did not catch on. Perhaps our notions of crime films and thrillers (just like horror films) are too inextricably linked to night and shadows. Perhaps we would rather not witness the dark underbelly of human existence that feeds the imaginary of genre cinema in broad daylight. Perhaps it is high time to turn on the lights! In John Sturges’ slow-burning crossbreed between western and film noir Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), in Russ Meyer’s supreme exploitation cult classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965), in Arthur Penn’s apocalyptic Southern Gothic The Chase (1966), in Georges Lautner’s delirious swan song of the hippie subculture Road to Salina (1970), in giallo master Lucio Fulci’s rarely screened nihilistic masterpiece Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972), in William Friedkin’s ultimate film maudit Sorcerer (1977).
Our special Focus: Norbert Pfaffenbichler 01 will host the Austrian experimentalist with a strong predilection for genre cinema – filmmaker, artist, and curator Norbert Pfaffenbichler. The author’s latest film 2551.01 (2021) and a tribute to the legendary “Man of a Thousand Faces” Lon Chaney A Messenger from the Shadows (Notes on Film 06 A/Monologue 01) (2013) will be accompanied by Tod Browning’s cult masterpiece The Unknown (1927) with Lon Chaney in the leading role, and a live score by Slovenian musicians Polona Janežič and Jelena Ždrale.
In the Special Screenings section another silent classic, this time The Witch (1922) by Benjamin Christensen, will be revived by musicians Elvis Homan and Boštjan Simon on the occasion of the film’s centenary. And after it was lost for half a century, the recently restored The Amusement Park (1973) by none other than the father of modern zombie cinema George A. Romero will rise from the dead.
The Kino Ekran section in collaboration with Ekran film magazine will host a discussion on Middle Eastern genre cinema, centred around the Iranian feature A Dragon Arrives! (2016) by Mani Haghighi and the short film Manivelle – Last Days of the Man of Tomorrow (2017) by Lebanese comic artists and filmmaker Fadi Baki aka The Fdz.
Along the Austrian experimental film 2551.01, our Contemporary section will showcase the Senegalese action film Saloum (2021), the Kazakhstani horror slapstick Sweetie, You Won’t Believe It (2021) and finally, the legendary visual effects artists Phil Tippett’s Mad God (2021), a magnum opus more than three decades in the making.
Our traditional fanzine and films criticism workshops How to Make a Fanzine and Shivering Skin, Sharpening Gaze! (under the mentorship of KINO! magazine) will be joined this year by Ekran magazine’s film criticism club To the Last Word. While the 5th Cult Film Conference returns to the cinema with our partners in crime, Northumbria University’s Dr Russ Hunter, Dr Kate Egan and Dr Johnny Walker.
Don’t squint away your time under a bar umbrella. Come bask in the sun in the cool darkness of cinema!
Maša Peče and Kurja Polt Festival