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'Noir City' organizer Eddie Muller on the evolution of the genre he loves

'Czar of Noir' Eddie Muller talks about the hard-boiled crime fiction that inspired film noir.

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It's obvious when you read "The Maltese Falcon" that this is Sam Spade's apartment: The layout is identical, the views out the windows, the logistics of all the scenes where the characters are crowding his apartment, chipping away at the black bird.
 
I have a friend who took over the lease, and he invested in restoring the apartment to how it was when Hammett lived there. It's been returned to the way it looked in 1929 – the fixtures, the Murphy bed.
 
Q: I've saved the most important question for last: What's the proper way to pronounce "noir" in film noir?
 
A: N-wah.  But in America, everybody pronounces the "r." The correct pronunciation is without the "r."
 
When I first started doing all this 10 or 12 years, ago, I defiantly refused to pronounce it properly. I didn't want to be considered like an academic, taking this stuff too seriously.
 
But after being accepted by the French for my work finding obscure films, I decided to pronounce to it properly: Film n-wah.
 
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You don't need to travel to San Francisco to find a film noir festival. Muller hosts fests in Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington D.C. There are also other film noir festivals each year in places like Palm Springs, Calif.
 
For more on noir fiction, check my previous Christian Science Monitor stories in which I interviewed the screenwriter behind HBO's "Mildred Pierce," asked crime fiction authors about their favorite noir books-turned-movies, and took a bus tour of James M. Cain's Los Angeles.
 
I also interviewed a book editor about a long-lost Cain novel that will soon appear on bookshelves and explored the debate over what counts as a noir movie. 

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Randy Dotinga is a Monitor correspondent.

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