Ah, Ian. Ian Birnie’s swan song @ LACMA this month 1


It’s a sad and bittersweet moment. We’re down to the last weekend film series curated by LACMA’s great film department head, Ian Birnie.

The 41-year old program, a landmark of high cinephilic culture, is giving way to a new structure, delivered in tandem with Film Independent and headed by the film critic Elvis Mitchell. There are many unknowns, but what is  certain is that we’ve reached an end of an era.

Here is Birnie’s text:

This July series is special in several ways. As I move forward with my career, the museum offered me the opportunity to revisit individual films and film series that I have organized since the summer of 1996; and in so doing to give the audience that has supported the LACMA film program over the past 15 years a chance to re-experience and discover some individual gems of film history, and to recall retrospectives and special screenings that they hopefully enjoyed.

As we savor the diversity of great cinema by embarking on this four weekend voyage down a celluloid river from Sunrise to Late Autumn, viewers may note that there is irony—or if one prefers, subtext—in the choice of these two particular masterpieces to open and close the series. Though the selection of films in Celebrating Classic Cinema was certainly personal and includes films I hold in high regard, I side-stepped the task of devising a list of ‘favorite’ or ‘desert island’ films—a soul-baring, mind-altering exercise for any film buff—in favor of a nostalgic look back at the program itself.

July 8 | 7:30 pm Sunrise
July 8 | 9:15 pm I Know Where I’m Going!
July 9 | 5 pm The Earrings of Madame de… $5
July 9 | 7:30 pm L’Avventura
July 15 | 7:30 pm Sullivan’s Travels
July 15 | 9:10 pm To Be or Not to Be
July 16 | 5 pm Written on the Wind $5
July 16 | 7:30 pm Pickpocket
July 16 | 9 pm Bay of Angels
July 22 | 7:30 pm In a Lonely Place
July 22 | 9:15 pm The Long Goodbye
July 23 | 5 pm The Exterminating Angel $5
July 23 | 7:30 pm Mulholland Dr.
July 29 | 7:30 pm The Lady from Shanghai
July 29 | 9:10 pm The Conformist
July 30 | 5 pm The River $5
July 30 | 7:30 pm Late Autumn

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Thank you, Los Angeles Times Culture Monster for the photo.

One comment on “Ah, Ian. Ian Birnie’s swan song @ LACMA this month

  1. Joshua Ireland Jul 28,2011 3:02 am

    It was decent, in a way, for the powers that be to allow Ian to leave after this eloquent testament to the value of his work. Without Save Film at LACMA, without the advocacy of some fine print journalists at the Times–themselves an endangered species–Ian would have been let go unceremoniously, and without the dignity of this farewell. We have at least forced them to show him–and us, his audience–this much respect.

    Everything is temporary. We are facing a tsunami of cultural change that is sweeping away books,bookstores, newspapers, magazines, the world of print, as well as the world of real movies seen on the big screen with an audience, and properly curated programs of classic cinema like this one. As a consolation, I can post a comment on an excellent blog. This is how it feels to belong to a cultural world that is slipping into the past, that is becoming a page in history.

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