12/07/2013 07:35 am ET | Updated Feb 06, 2014

'It's a Bitter Little World': The Courmayeur Noir in Festival

2013-12-07-immagine2013.jpg Nestled at the foot of the Mont Blanc, Courmayeur is an Italian town long known as the sky resort of the rich and famous. My own personal connection with the place goes back to the time when mom, as a young adult, went there with her father, a stockbroker. She once told me it was during that visit she tasted her first glass of champagne and from that moment on, the mystique of Courmayeur in my family's tales was born.

The Courmayeur Noir in Festival is an event that appears to go beyond the typical film festival format. Surrounded by sidebar conversations, exhibits and featuring a work in progress alongside titles by mainstream filmmakers such as Ridley Scott's The Counselor, the festival has gained a following worthy of the noir genre.

Looking for the term "film noir" online yielded the following result: "A style or genre of cinematographic film marked by a mood of pessimism, fatalism and menace." In the Encyclopedia Britannica, these French words which mean "dark film" are interpreted to mean films that feature "cynical heroes, the use of flashbacks, intricate plots and an underlying existentialist philosophy." In Courmayeur, dark meets snow, with world intellectuals mixed in. Sounds like an incredible event.

This year's 23rd edition of the festival will also see Swedish mystery novelist Henning Mankell receive the Raymond Chandler Award for masters of the genre, on the night Scandinavians everywhere celebrate the saint of darkness herself, Santa Lucia -- the 13th of December. The theme of the festival is "Le Mani Sulle Città" -- "Hands on the City" which is both a play on the title of the Francesco Rosi film, but also points the finger at who the new economic "criminal owners" are in major Italian urban centers such as Rome and Milan.

There are films for everyone, a theater production, a musical performance, a photographic competition tittled "Eyes on the City" dedicated to social networks, literary talks and a work in progress titled "Off Stage" which features the real-life stories of the protagonists of the Taviani brothers beautiful, touching latest film Caesar Must Die filmed in the Roman jail of Rebibbia.

Among my personal favorites in the festival's impressive line-up are the Jake Gyllenhaal starrer Enemy, which left me speechless at first viewing, then inspired endless conversations and theories about its provocative ending.

The Danish The Keeper of Lost Causes, which deftly deals with violence on women and in the process, introduces the audience to two fantastic leading men, the Danish Nikolaj Lie Kaas, who is a well-renowned actor in his native country, and the Lebanese Swedish actor Fares Fares.

The American film Blue Caprice is about the Beltway sniper attacks that immobilized the East Coast of the US in 2002. But the film, instead of dealing with the headlines, examines the mental inner workings and the intricate emotional dynamics between the two attackers, who were father and "adoptive" son in real life.

The documentary The search for Emak Bakia by Oskar Alegria is an interesting, artful search film in the footsteps of Man Ray, looking for his legendary villa in Biarritz in the south of France, the inspiration for the "cinépoéme" the artist made in 1927 titled Emak Bakia -- Basque for "Leave me alone."

A film festival cannot be complete without a platform that encourages future audiences and at Courmayeur Noir there are also screenings for the kids, with films such as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 and the Italian short Pipì, Pupù, Rosmarina e il flauto magico di Enzo D'Alò.

The Courmayeur Noir in Film runs from December 10th to the 15th, 2013. For more information visit the film festival's website.

Top image courtesy of the Courmayeur Noir in Festival, used with permission