Deep in the shadow of the enormous Mont-Blanc, in the darkest, coldest part of the glacial Alpine winter, December in Courmayeur is an apt setting for a celebration of the film noir convention.
What Exactly is Film Noir?
What exactly constitutes film noir is a question that remains contentious to this day. In the popular mind it bears associations with a mysterious, dangerous femme fatale character and a grizzled, hard drinking, chain-smoking private eye, but these hallmarks are far from universal within film noir, and so what it is that defines the genre, or whether film noir is a genre at all, remains debated.
Attempts have been made to grapple with this question of definition over the years, but in short, film noir is generally agreed to be characterised by its mood and its visual style more than its content. Films considered examples of the style usually have a pervasive sense of gloom and depravity and often deal with dark, morbid themes. The aesthetic is often characterised by lingering shots, with a stripped down, bleak aspect and stark, often unbalanced composition.
What Makes ‘Courmayeur Noir in Festival’ so Alluring?
With this slippery not-quite-definition in mind, it’s clear that candidates for Courmayeur Noir in Festival run a broad gamut, and that’s part of what makes this festival so alluring for film lovers less familiar with the convention as well as for established film noir enthusiasts. The festival screens a large number of films, both in and out of competition.
While details of this year’s schedule will not be available until November, last year saw films such as Macdonald’s Black Sea, Lesina’s In the Box and Mundruczo’s White God compete, with a number of other films, including newer films such as Szilfron’s Relatos Savajes and older ones such as Blade Runner screened non-competitively. Additionally, each year a few recent examples of TV Noir, such as Bokenkamp’s The Blacklist, are screened.
Not Just Film and Television
Much of the festival’s charm comes from the fact that it doesn’t restrict itself to film and television. You can expect a wealth of conversations and exhibits outside of the films being screened, and in the past there have been work-in-progress films as well as stage productions. 2013 saw a photography competition entitled “Eyes on the City” and the festival also includes children’s screenings, showing the organisers’ understanding of the capacity children have to enjoy quality films and develop their own tastes.
The festival is also where they award the annual Raymond Chandler prize for noir and thriller writers. Past winners have included John le Carrè, James Grady and the late Henning Mankell, bearing testament to the festival’s commitment to noir across all media. Whatever December 2015 holds for Courmayeur Noir in Festival, it will certainly be worth a visit.
How to get to Courmayeur
Courmayeur is only accessible by road. Driving from Geneva Airport takes around an hour and a half along the A40, and those who aren’t driving will want to look into Geneva airport transfers. Be advised that there is a toll between Geneva and Courmayeur, and that you’ll have to cross the Swiss-Italian border.
Where to Stay
Hotel Locanda Belvedere – For private rooms and bathrooms at an excellent price, consider the Belvedere. The accommodation is comfortable and the surroundings are gorgeous, making for an excellent low cost hotel experience.
Hotel Bouton d’Or – Warm and welcoming, the Bouton d’Or is a good choice for those seeking a mid-priced hotel. This hotel is also notable for its transport links: free shuttle services take you to the Dolonne ski slope, while a bus to Milan and Turin stops only a few minutes away.
Auberge de la Maison – if you’re looking for cosy fireside charm, go for the warm and luxurious Auberge. This hotel is the perfect place to keep warm during long winter nights after a day spent exploring Courmayeur or at the film festival, complete with a Turkish bath and sauna in which you can sweat the snow and wind to a distant memory. The hotel also has a wonderfully rustic, wood-furnished restaurant and a living room with a roaring log fire.