To introduce Gilda (1946) at the Balboa Theater on Thursday, NoirCity founder Eddie Muller offered a familiar interpretation of the film: its protagonist (Glenn Ford as Johnny Farrell), like its director (Charles Vidor), is confused about his sexuality. Now, we've always found this reading a little juvenile, and a little too easy--most film noir, after all, is about homoerotic relationships (see also: cowboy movies) and the beautiful, dangerous women who threaten them. In this setting, though, it was worse than lazy criticism: it produced that most annoying feature of the art-house moviegoing experience, the inside joke. You know this one: whenever something they've been told to watch for happens, moviegoers (clad, again, in fedoras--these must be the same people who wore tutus to the ballet when they were younger) laugh nervously, not because they're amused but because they get it.
Happily, what took place on the screen made up for anything that could possibly have happened in the theatre. First, the sold-out house (on a Thursday! A 9:30 show! Of a film made in 1946!) was treated to a preview for Baby Face, which was reviewed here this summer and which plays at the Balboa, along with another Stanwyck vehicle, Night Nurse, Feburary 3-9. Then, we got a truly bizarre Tex Avery cartoon, "Who Killed Who?", set in a haunted house full of cross-dressing ghosts and a pissed-off Santa Claus (really). Then, Gilda.