Rialto's Best of British Noir

Film noir is getting a good workout during otherwise sunny September

PREVIEW That undisputed champ of repertory programming, film noir, is getting a good workout during otherwise sunny September. Elliot Lavine combs the Columbia vaults for a 22-film Roxie bonanza, while the Castro Theatre and Pacific Film Archive look across the pond for a touch of "tea and larceny." Even if it's disingenuous to label these Anglo entries as noir — the camera angles are right, the mannered scripts not so much — the down-and-out British crime films make for a fascinating mirror image to their American counterparts, not least for the visible evidence of World War II trauma. The rarity-heavy PFA series will better satisfy the buff, but only a fool would pass up a week's worth of Rialto restoration prints at the Castro. Three of the five films are Graham Greene affairs, including a long-overdue re-release of Brighton Rock (1947). The real discovery of the series, however, is Robert Hamer's It Always Rains on Sunday (1947), an unusual mélange of kitchen-sink drama, Dostoyevskian moral tale, and on-the-lam thriller. If the steady downpour is pure noir, the film's narrative is less typical. Instead of concentrating trauma and repression into a single (male) figure, Hamer spreads it around an entire East London neighborhood. There is an escaped convict at the center of the story who looks every bit the seductive part, but in spite of a stylish chase finale, Hamer is more interested in the drab corners of ordinary deceit. His resourceful dramatizations of working class spaces — and specifically their lack of privacy — are consumed with an anxiety far in excess of the film's serviceable plot.

RIALTO'S BEST OF BRITISH NOIR Sept. 11–16, $10. Castro Theatre, 429 Castro, SF

(415) 621-6120, www.thecastrotheatre.com

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