The Best Old Movies on a Big Screen This Week: NYC Repertory Cinema Picks, November 11-17

f-1-nightmare-alley

Nightmare Alley (1947)
Directed by Edmund Goulding
The essence of noir is more psychological than physical, such that noir films can take place in virtually any location. Many classical noirs turn from tales of urban crime into fractured road movies whose heroes flee for their lives and from themselves at the same time. The grim Nightmare Alley (based on William Lindsay Gresham’s even grimmer novel) works intriguingly in reverse. It opens at a traveling carnival to which con man Stanton Carlisle (an against-type Tyrone Power) has arrived fascinated by a geek’s looming shadow and eventually winds up in high-class sectors of Chicago, where “The Great Stanton” has settled down and tried to escape trouble with fairground-gained knowledge as a nightclub mentalist with wealthy targets. Along the way, he gets involved with three women: The older, code-bearing carnival mentalist Zeena (a haggard Joan Blondell), the younger, God-fearing performance aide Molly (a beautiful, perpetually broken-looking Coleen Gray), and the in-between haughty psychologist Lilith (a malevolent Helen Walker), who likes to hear confessions with a tape recorder running. Each forces Stanton to see himself in uncomfortable ways. As he moves from one woman to another, he discovers that all three can read his mind. Aaron Cutler (November 15, 2pm at the Museum of the Moving Image’s “Lonely Places: Film Noir and the American Landscape”)

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