Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

Danger and Despair Knitting Circle

By awoodall
Thursday, August 7th, 2008 at 2:43 pm in Night Owl.

Oakland was quiet enough Wednesday night that I got all the way to San Francisco for a flick — “Cry Tough” set in Spanish Harlem — that’s part of an underground noir series/cocktail salon.  
The films, 16-mm reels shown in a secret location that is disclosed by the Danger and Despair Knitting Circle at its discretion, are “impossibly rare and hard-to-find” titles. And they’re free. But the booze isn’t.
“Can we have a martini?” I asked my boyfriend, who was my guide for the night. Yes, he resplied, we can. In fact, a martini might be considered obligatory at a noir film. Drinks in hand, we settled into our impossibly uncomfortable chairs that were never meant to hold a rear end for an hour and a half. But the City Club was a big step up from the small rooms in dismal basements where the group started five years ago, when the audience was 40 to 50 hard core, noir-files and cinema buffs. The room was near capacity at 115 people last night, according to the Robert Marion.
A guy by the name of Chuck, dressed from the waist up like a rumpled reporter from 1936, introduced the film, which featured zero Puerto Rican actors although it was supposed to be the story of the newest immigrants to the United States in 1959, Puerto Ricans. “This is the story of one of its sons” Miguel Estrada (played by John Saxon), an ex-con trying to go straight who gets caught between his American dreams and immigrants’ hard-luck reality.  “Do I have to rot here because I was born a generation too son?” he asks his father. “Everyone else busted out before us: Italians, Irish, Jews.”
 The double-crossing dame Santa, played by Argentinian actress Linda Cristal, has some sharp lines: “Nothin’s shakin’ but the bacon and that’s taken,” she quips at the toughs in the dive where she meets Estrada. Of course, it all goes downhill from there, ending in Estrada’s death. Even if “Cry Tough” does stretch the genre in different directions, it’s still noir. The theme of this installment of films is how TV affected film, thematically and stylistically.
Good idea. Poor execution last night as Chuck stumbled through the after-movie discussion that was supposed to be like a salon. I heard the Mark is the brains missing last night and the organizers were caught off guard. I am excited about seeing “Appointment with a Shadow,” about an alcoholic reporter who becomes the target of a diabolical murder plot while trying to score the lowdown on a big story. In the meantime, noir owls, tonight “The Burglar” is showing at the PFA in Berkeley. Eddie Muller, the mayor of Noirville, will be on hand to introduce the film: “A miasma of incestuous desire hangs over thief Dan Duryea and sister Jayne Mansfield in Goodis’s pulpy plot.”

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