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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

California Noir at the LACMA

For two Fridays and Saturdays in a row (May 18 & 19 and the 25 & 26) the Los Angels County Museum of Art (LACMA) is presenting a special film series called The Sun Sets in the West: Mid-Century California Noir. The special program presented in conjunction with California Design, 1930-1965: "Living in a Modern Way" features such classics as M with Peter Lorre and Criss Cross with Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo pictured below.

There seems to be a lot of fondness for the Film-Noir lately. Earlier this year the Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival featured many pictures from the darker side of Hollywood, followed shortly after by the Film Noir Foundation’s Noir City two week festival at the Egyptian in Hollywood, which was followed by yet another fest in San Francisco at the Roxie. And of course there are countless individual screenings all across the country in theaters large and small. Apparently, the moody stylings of a genre that celebrated its heyday in the 1940s and early 50s has gained a whole new appreciation from today’s audiences. And now the LACMA is keeping in step with this trend, but in a whole new way by offering a uniquely Californian spin on the films playing this weekend and next.

The films selected for the program, The Sun Sets in the West: Mid-Century Noir at the LACMA have a particular attribute - they were all shot on location and set in major California cities. The ten films set to screen present the famously Golden State in a whole new light and shadow. Full of postwar angst, these mostly B pictures were largely neglected in their day, but are well deserved of the fanfare offered now. Although there are a few favorites (Kiss Me Deadly, M) most of the films in the line up will be unfamiliar to fans, giving die hard devotees and new comers to the format a chance to discover some truly terrific films.

I highly recommend Criss Cross on Saturday, May 19 at 7:30P. I saw it for the first time on the big screen at the previously mentioned TCM festival and it was so much fun seeing Burt Lancaster in a film of which I had previously been completely unaware. It felt like I was seeing a new release. No doubt the series programmer, Bernardo Rondeau, Assistant Curator of Film Programs, had that aspect in mind when making his well-rounded selections. Whatever his reasons, these well-chosen Noirs are sure to satisfy any classic movie fan, and likely to make new fans of the uninitiated. I envy those new converts - they’re at the beginning of an amazing journey. Its a journey I’ve been enjoying for years, and encourage others to take for themselves. But I will warn you, that once you start, you’ll never look at modern cinema the same way again - and you’ll be glad.

Bing Theater tickets go for $10 to the general public, $7 for LACMA members seniors, and students with ID; $5 LACMA Film Club members. Tickets can be purchased by calling (323) 857-6010 or purchase online.

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