Pass the Remote: Global lineup at Noir City 21 in Oakland  

Director Carol Reed's award-winning "Odd Man Out" is just one of the finds in this weekend's "Noir City" series in Oakland. (Courtesy Janus Films)

For Noir City’s 21st iteration, festival founder Eddie Muller of San Francisco came up with a novel approach to entice film noir fans to Oakland’s Grand Lake Theatre: curating double bills that pair English language and international movies.  

That ingenuity characterizes Muller, a writer (a picture book cowritten with Jessica Schmidt, “Kid Noir: Kitty Feral and the Case of the Marshmallow Monkey,” came out in September); the president and founder of the Film Noir Foundation; and host of Turner Classic Movies’ “Noir Alley.” 

“Noir City 21: Darkness Has No Borders” rolls in like fog to Oakland’s Grand Lake Theatre on Friday. Muller co-programmed and co-hosts (with Imogen Sara Smith, featured often on the Criterion Channel) the 10-day fest built around femme fatales and desperate guys getting tangled up in big-time, hard-boiled trouble.  

All 24 titles in Noir City’s run from Jan. 19 to Jan. 28 look sinfully delicious. But we’d lose our job if we decided to call in sick to camp out at the Grand Lake to catch every screening. After making hard choices, here are three double bills we won’t want to miss.  

Friday, Jan. 19 (opening night) 

We haven’t heard much about either film—Argentinian director Carlos Hugo Christensen’s “Never Open That Door” (“No Abras Nunca Esa Puerta”) at 7:30 p.m. and American B-movie director Jack Hively’s “Street of Chance” at 9:30 p.m.—and that makes us curious.  

Both originated from the pen of the late, prolific author Cornell Woolrich. “Never Open That Door melds two Woolrich short stories, “Someone on the Phone” and “The Hummingbird Comes.” Christensen’s 1952 feature transfers the action from the United States to Buenos Aires and combines a story about a brother out for vengeance with one about a former con and his mother. “Street of Chance,” released in 1942, features Burgess Meredith as a New Yorker afflicted with amnesia (a favorite noir device) slapped with a crime he knows nothing about. Claire Trevor costars as a woman tied to his past.  

Saturday evening, Jan. 20 

While director Carol Reed’s classic thrillers based on heralded author Graham Greene screenplays —1948’s “The Fallen Idol” and the landmark 1949 “The Third Man” with Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles —are better known, the British filmmaker’s earlier feature, 1947’s “Odd Man Out” (7 p.m.) is a must for any cinephile. With this IRA-themed thriller, Reed poured the foundation for “The Third Man,” what many consider one of the best films of all time. Similar in concept, the intense “Odd Man Out” tracks a desperate IRA fugitive (James Mason) through Belfast as the cops narrow in on him. It won the first British Academy Film Award for Best British Film. Also nominated for a best editing Oscar, it should have gotten a nod for best cinematography as well.  

It’s paired with a new 4K restoration of Emilio Fernández’s “Victims of Sin” (“Victimas del Pecado”) at 9:30 p.m. The robust genre bouncer pumps song-and-dance routines into a lurid story about the decline of a star nightclub performer (Ninón Sevilla) who falls out of favor when she tries to save a baby that was dumped in the trash. “Victims of Sin,” which came out in 1951, is enjoying a revival and deserves to be more in conversation about standout noirs.  

Tuesday, Jan. 23 

Released in the United States as “I Became a Criminal” and screening at 7:30 p.m., 1947’s “They Made Me a Fugitive” stars Trevor Howard as an escaped con running into an assorted bunch of shady characters —including a dysfunctional married couple—as he tries to prove they threw the wrong guy into the slammer. It’s based on Jackson Budd’s literally titled novel “A Convict Has Escaped” and was directed by Calvacanti, who every so often decided to drop his first name of Alberto in the credits. 

“Fugitive” sounds like somewhat of a guilty pleasure. Not so 1960’s “Aimless Bullet” (aka “Stray Bullet” and “Obaltan”) from director Yu Hyun-mok. Screening at 9 p.m., the South Korean film has been hailed as one of the country’s best, most significant features of all time. As much a social and political commentary as it is a noir, it shows how the life of a barely-getting-by Seoul accountant (Kim Jin-kyu) goes into a tailspin due to confluence of factors. “Aimless Bullet” didn’t sit well with the government upon its release and was yanked from theaters. However, it was shown in San Francisco International Film Festival in 1963 and has accumulated exceptional reviews.  

Noir City 21 runs Jan. 19-28 at the Grand Lake Theatre, 3200 Grand Ave., Oakland. Double feature tickets are $20, all access passes are $200. For the schedule and tickets, visit 

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