The Bitter Stems. 1956. Argentina. Directed by Fernando Ayala

With its revelations of a darkly entertaining and uniquely indigenous brand of film noir, MoMA’s 2015 Mexico at Midnight: Film Noir from Mexican Cinema’s Golden Age series paved the way for further research into other homegrown forms of noir. A suitably sinister place to start is Argentina during the Peronist years (1949–56), a period of repression and class warfare for some, and a glorified age of social justice and national pride for others. For the screenwriters, directors, and actors in this six-film series, Buenos Aires is a cesspool of murder and corruption, where serial killers, pedophiles, and racketeers walk the streets with impunity, and no crime goes punished—the perfect backdrop for adaptations of thrillers by Cornell Woolrich, Hugo Fregonese, and Adolfo Jasca, as well as Richard Wright’s Native Son and Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou’s 1930 expressionist classic M. Taut and exciting, with perverse pleasures every step of the way, this exhibition is co-presented by its curators, Eddie Muller, founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation; and his Argentine colleague, film historian Fernando Martín Peña. Featuring the New York premieres of four films preserved by the Film Noir Foundation in association with Fernando Martín Peña, as well as the Foundation’s restoration of Los Tallos amargos (The Bitter Stems) (performed by UCLA Film & Television Archive) and the world premiere of Native Son (digitally restored by The Library of Congress), this exhibition proves, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that we really don’t know what we’ve been missing. All film descriptions are by Eddie Muller.

The exhibition is organized by Eddie Muller, Founder and President, Film Noir Foundation, and Fernando Martín Peña, Film Curator, MALBA, Buenos Aires. The presentation at MoMA is organized by Joshua Siegel, Curator, Department of Film.

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