I Wake Up Dreaming

As the Roxie’s annual film noir extravaganza, I WAKE UP DREAMING 2014 approaches, it seems like an ideal time to reflect on the theater’s decades-long contributions to the re-emergence and re-energizing of the film noir ethos, most notably through the legendarily obsessive programming of Elliot Lavine. Lavine began programming at the Roxie in 1990, but his formal connection to San Francisco’s oldest operating movie theater began in the early 1980s when then owner / programmers Peter Moore and Anita Monga scheduled his 12 minute film noir short, “Blind Alley” at the Roxie to screen alongside Truffaut’s SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER.

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In 1990 Lavine joined the Roxie staff, initially to assist with publicity but was soon contributing to much of the theater’s innovative programming. In June 1991, a Lavine-programmed double bill of film noir classics THE BIG COMBO and 99 RIVER STREET found itself with a long line that stretched around the block! Plans were immediately underway to launch a film noir festival, the likes of which San Francisco had never seen before. This first festival, back in September 1991, was an amazing month-long event of incredibly rare and / or significant noir double bills. Virtually overnight a whole new audience for film noir was created at the Roxie.

This was followed in the spring of 1992 with yet another month-long cavalcade and the dye was formally cast: the Roxie, under Lavine’s programming leadership had become San Francisco’s “palace of noir.”

Throughout the 90s, Lavine’s noir programming continued to unearth and revive countless films. In early May 1992, with the cooperation of director Allen Baron, Lavine revived BLAST OF SILENCE, a 1961 film that had all but disappeared from view. The closing night film of the ’92 noir fest, BLAST opened the following day for a full week’s run. Today it is now known as the classic it was fated to be. In October 1995, Lavine opened his two-week noir fest with a pristine 35mm print of Robert Aldrich’s KISS ME DEADLY for a week-long run to commemorate its 40th anniversary. When the film was press-screened at the Roxie, it was discovered that our print (unsealed since 1955!) contained all of the original footage from the film’s incendiary climax, footage long thought to be forever lost! This historic screening led to the reconstruction and eventual enhanced integrity of the film’s reputation. Two years later, Lavine extended the same status to one of the greatest of all noir films, a 50th anniversary one-week revival of Jacques Tourneur’s immortal OUT OF THE PAST. It broke every existing box-office record for any Roxie revival, setting the standard for this type of aggressive repertory programming.

Again, in 1998, Lavine astounded audiences with a brand new 35mm print of Samuel Fuller’s 1964 noir epic THE NAKED KISS. A flood of ecstatic reviews enabled this outré noir classic to remain on the Roxie’s screen for an unprecedented two weeks!

Lavine continued to program great noir films for the Roxie up until he left in January 2003. When he returned in the spring of 2009, it was with the first in his newly christened noir series I Wake Up Dreaming. That festival was a smash sensation, giving noir fans a great opportunity to see thirty incredibly rare B noirs. He continues to dazzle San Francisco audiences with his particular slant on noir programming and large, enthusiastic crowds greet his annual I WAKE UP DREAMING series every May.

Here are some of the things that San Francisco writers have said about him and his programming:

Film programmer Elliot Lavine revels in dark side, San Francisco Chronicle (Mick LaSalle, May 2011)

Tough, Uncompromising, Nasty Little Films: A Conversation with Elliot Lavine, MUBI interview (Max Goldberg, June 2011)

The night has a thousand eyes. Elliot Lavine’s “I Wake Up Dreaming” series returns with more rare noir, SF Bay Guardian (Dennis Harvey, May 2011)

If you’re nasty. Exotic terrors and fast women abound in the Roxie’s latest ‘pre-Code’ series, San Francisco Bay Guardian (Dennis Harvey, March 2013)

For the Next Two Weeks @The Roxie: Elliot Lavine’s Box of Cracker Jack Noir Oddities, SFMOMA blog site, Open Space (Brecht Andersch, May 2010)

Elliot Lavine: ‘I Wake Up Dreaming’, SF360 interview (Sura Wood, May 2009)

Marlon Riggs Award for courage & vision in the Bay Area film community, San Francisco Film Critics Circle, December 2010

The Roxie continues to lead the way in adventurous repertory film programming, and Elliot Lavine’s Annual “I Wake Up Dreaming” Film Noir Festival is a sterling example of this. But in order to insure this type of programming thrives, we need your generous support. Please find it in your noir heart to make your much appreciated donation,or buy the I Wake Up Dreaming Poster!