Bernardo Rondeau, originally hired by the very missed Ian Birnie, is continuing in Birnie’s vein. Rondeau, who formally worked with Landmark, brings a historically knowledgeable and witty approach to the expanded Exhibition Film Series he’s been programming since Birnie left LACMA.
Consider his provocative series High and Low: Postwar Japan in Black and White (shown In conjunction with the exhibition Fracture: Daido Moriyama) which continues next weekend alongside classics like Kurosawa’s “Stray Dog” and Nagisa Oshima’s New Wave masterpiece “Diary of a Shinjuku Thief” Rondeau offered Hiroshi Teshigahara’s existential fetishist “The Face Of Another” (the film shares stylistic explorations with films from “Fantomas” to “Persona” and with directors like Resnais and Godard.) Even rarer was Susumu Hani’s teenage l’amour fou “The Inferno of First Love.”
The series finishes on the weekend of June 8-9 with a Shohei Imamura double-bill: the absurdist post-war black comedy “Pigs and Battleships” (1962) and the lurid eroticized “The Pornographers” (1966).
On Saturday he’s showing Toshio Matsumoto mixed-media Pop transvestite pulp film “Funeral Parade of Roses”(1969) and Akira Kurosawa’s scope masterwork, the kidnap thriller “High and Low”.
Under Rondeau’s ambitious, sprightly programming, once again LACMA’s becoming the place to be on the weekend for film lovers.
Consider the rarely seen films shown in “The Sun Sets in the West: Mid-Century California Noir” in conjunction will the museum’s “California Design, 1930-1965” exhibition,
Besides the well-known Aldrich “Kiss Me Deadly”, Siodmak’s “Criss Cross” and Sam Fuller’s “The Crimson Kimono”, Rondeau offered Jacques Tourneur’s “Nightfall (from a David Goodis novel), the Joan Crawford vehicle “The Damned Don’t Cry.”
Even more interesting were Losey’s “The Prowler” (starring Van Heflin and Evelyn Keyes) and remarkable remake of “M”, starring David Wayne, made just before Losey was blacklisted.
The revelations for me were Blake Edwards’ lean, angry “Experiment in Terror,” and Irving Lerner’s ‘Poverty Row’ “Murder by Contract”. Shot by
Lucien Ballard, the taut radical portrait of an educated serial killer (Vince Edwards) presaged the amoral new world we now live in and inspired Scorcese’s Taxi Driver.
For “Adventures In Wonderland: Alice And Other Lost Girls In Fantastic Worlds Animation Series (In conjunction with the exhibition “In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States”) he lead with an animation night (programmed with animation historian Jerry Beck) celebrating the Modernist work of Hollywood’s United Productions of America (UPA) and ended with a tribute to the father of visual music Oskar Fischinger. That series showed stopped motion work by Jan Svankmajer (“Alice’) and the Brother Quay, Jaromil Jireš’s sensual baroque marvel “Valerie and Her Week of Wonders”, films by Czech new wave icon Vera Chytilova, and Lou Bunin’s long suppressed, impossible to see, stop motion 1948 “Alice in Wonderland”.
Brondeau has taken Michael Govan’s mandate to program films compatible with temporary exhibitions and really run with it. Early programmers of LACMA’S 40 year-old film program would be proud.