Guy Noir: Maddin Discusses Arts Festival

A still from Hauntings, a series of lost film recreations by Noir presenter and Hirshon Film Festival Director in Residence Guy Maddin.

No one really knows how to define ‘noir’,, says Guy Maddin, cult filmmaker and presenter at Noir, the first New School Arts Festival. Over the course of the festival, from April 1 to 8 at venues across The New School, artists and scholars like Frances McDormand, Todd Haynes, Marc Ribot, Mary Gaitskill, Robert Pinsky, Greil Marcus, and Luc Sante will dissect noir in a program of panels, screenings, and live performances.

Noir was organized by James Miller, chair of Liberal Studies at The New School for Social Research, Robert LuPone, director of The New School for Drama, and Robert Polito, director of the Writing Program, to explore the wide-ranging influence of the stark silhouettes, sexual frankness, stylized emotion, and absence of sentimentality that are the hallmarks of the genre.

For his part, Maddin will serve as Director in Residence at the Dorothy H. Hirshon Film Festival, lead a master class with students, and, screen a selection of shorts from his project Hauntings, an ambitious recreation and reimagining of 1,024 lost and unrealized films by classic directors. Motivated since childhood by a preternatural affection for the ideas of haunting and remembrance, Maddin immediately connected with the destroyed and dashed works. The idea that these films were gone really tortured me,, Maddin says, so I set out to create echoes from a future that was never allowed to happen.,

Those echoes take the form of black-and-white live-action shorts laying out the basic plots of the films, which Maddin unearthed by exhaustive research through old Hollywood fanzines and issues of Variety. He has completed 11 to date and will spend the next few years filming and editing the remaining works and posting them online, where people from all over the world can visit and revisit them.

When approached by Robert Polito, who will share the stage for Maddin’s April 6 discussion, Maddin jumped at the chance to participate. This is not your typical festival,, he says. The ideas are so unorthodox and interesting. I answered ‘yes’ in a nanosecond.,

Although the films of Haunted are filled with Alton-esque shadows and classic scores, to Maddin, noir is at its heart more thematic than aesthetic. My favorite noir films have a post-traumatic stress-induced delirium,, Maddin says. There are the elements of memory difficulties, accesses of rage, homicidal impulses, things like that.,

More than just depictions of the dark side of the human spirit, good noir, also accesses the essence of human spirituality, he says. It really makes sense that the French term for film screening is séance, because the best of them capture that feeling of connecting to the paranormal, of resurrection.,

The Noir Festival will open on Friday, April 1, with The New City at Night, a live stage performance of original and adapted material by first-year students of The New School for Drama. In addition to Guy Maddin’s Lost Films (April 6), highlights include A Checkroom Romance, a musical tragicomedy written, drawn, and directed by illustration faculty member Ben Katchor and scored by Mark Mulcahy (April 2); Mark Ribot in concert (April 2); The Femme Fatale, a panel discussion with critic Molly Haskell, culture writer Kim Morgan, journalist Susie Linfield, and Eugene Lang College faculty member Laura Frost (April 5); and a conversation with Frances McDormand (April 6).

For more information, including the full schedule of Noir events, visit www.newschool.edu/noir.