Modernism + Film

Modernism + Film

Lobby and Auditorium
March 10 at 6 PM


The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art screens the feature film Smog (trailer, 88 minutes, not rated) March 10 during the museum’s Modernism + Film program.

Since the rise of the film industry in the 1920s, Los Angeles has had a hold on the imagination of people across the globe – aspiring actors, writers, directors, architects and artists have all been drawn, moth-like, to the city’s fame and fortune flames. This movement produced a cottage industry of commentary on the city itself, from essayists, novelists, painters and songwriters to Smog, a nearly forgotten 1962 film by Italian director Franco Rossi.

Of course the city is known as much for its broken dreams as its success stories. But for a foreign film director like Rossi, the burgeoning sprawl and history-free aesthetic provided intriguing contrasts with post-war Italy. Smog was the first European film to be shot predominantly in Los Angeles, and Rossi spent months in pre-production exploring the city for shooting locales. The plot, about an Italian attorney stuck in Los Angeles for 48 hours, reflects how well Rossi absorbed the city and its denizens’ character (aided by the Piero Umiliani soundtrack, which features trumpeter Chet Baker).

Following his protagonist through the city – from the newly built International Airport to the oil wells of Culver City – and a series of chance encounters, the director explores the city's mix of cultures, landscapes and social strata. As a foreigner, Rossi sees it all without the ingrained cynicism so characteristic of the city’s film noir industry, but does so while also avoiding its land-of-milk-and-honey mythology. In doing so, Smog presents a moody but sensationalist-free look at post-war America and its most emblematic and enigmatic city.


Prior to the film screening, Jeff Balmer, UNC Charlotte Associate Professor at the School of Architecture, will provide remarks.


An event reception with a cash-only bar and free light bites begins at 6 p.m. in the Bechtler lobby followed by the presentation and film screening at 7 p.m. in the auditorium.


Tickets are $10 for the public, $8 for museum members and $5 for students. Buy tickets (Tickets may also be purchased by phone 704.353.9200 or at the admissions desk.) Student tickets may be purchased at the door or by phone. Must present student ID to claim.

Image: Case Study House No. 22, Los Angeles, CA. 1960, Architect Pierre Koenig. Photo by Julius Shulman