No. 118 (essentialsaltes) wrote,
No. 118

Los Angeles Plays Itself

I caught it at the Aero last night. Sell-out crowd. It screens again tonight with the director present, so if you're going, go early (and while I'm thinking of it, upcoming screenings there include On Her Majesty's Secret Service, with Lazenby in attendance, and Starship Troopers with Verhoeven (who will also be signing his book, Jesus of Nazareth (which provides a non-supernatural account of the historical Jesus (who knew Verhoeven was a member of the Jesus Seminar?))))

um, anyway, the film...

It's kind of a mess, but a glorious mess. I've seen other reviewers complain about the soporific inflection of the voiceover. It's justified and quite sad, since the director's text itself is sometimes quite witty. 'What other police force would put its motto in quotes?' But the deadpan delivery sometimes treads on the delicate humor. At other times, primarily in the last section of the film, the director (a film prof at CalArts) indulges in film wank and polemics. Given the near 3 hour runtime, it might be best to split at the intermission - you'll miss most of the crotchetiness and wank, and you won't have to hear him bad-mouth Blade Runner and LA Story. (I will lash back by saying that Andersen is an idiot for saying that the inside of the Ennis House was used as a location in Blade Runner, when everyone knows Deckard's apartment was a set built from elements created from a mold of the Ennis House blocks. Nyah!)
My other main complaint is that the image quality is often poor, like the clips had been stripped from a decaying VHS or YouTube (which maybe they had). Some of this may have been the projection, but I wouldn't know what the hell I'm talking about. Insert DavidJ tirade.

But, the first two-thirds of the film is a dizzying tour of LA through film, illustrated by oodles of clips from the obvious to the obscure, with the voiceover providing just enough explanation to help provide context. This is a fun and surprising ride through LA and 'LA'. And even more distant places, for which LA is standing in: you can see the Bradbury Building be a hotel in Burma (in its first(?) film role in China Girl (1942)) or a hospital in London (and a dozen other things - but I was surprised M wasn't included).
Too many things seen to remember them all. One that sticks out is the Richfield Tower, which appears in a scene in Zabriskie Point shortly before it was demolished. Oh, and Bruce Lee destroying Philip Marlowe's office (skip to 3:00 after the initial violence). Oh, and some of the hilariously awful interior decorating in Point Blank - 'a movie for people who hate LA'. Oh, and the eye-popping revelation that the film's title is not quite original. Oh, and the late 60s incarnation of Dragnet in which Joe Friday spends most of his time fighting the counterculture with Colonel Potter. Oh, and the ignominious fate of the Pan Pacific Auditorium in Xanadu.

After the intermission, I get the feeling that Andersen decided his film can't just be a clip show. It better be about something, provide some documentary meat or critical wank. The end section starts with a useful (and spoileriffic) comparison of the mythical history vs the real history of Chinatown, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and LA Confidential. And then the director gets his cranky and wanky pants on and things go a little downhill. Slightly paraphrasing the voiceover: "I hate cops, so I really enjoy James Cameron's Terminator when Arnie goes around shooting cops."
The first half of the movie had been conspicuously almost devoid of the racial diversity of LA. Barely anything of the Menace II the Boyz in the Hood genre, which I suspect Andersen considers un-PC white privilege-cinema, although I don't think it is ever addressed directly. Instead we are treated to black indie films that no one out of film school has ever seen, and Andy Warhol clowning around at the Watts Towers. It's probably too much to ask for an insightful look at race in LA through film (especially as part of a general look at LA in film), but this treatment was just bizarre and pointless, and was a particularly weak topic on which to end the film.

TL;DR version: awesome clip show, followed by annoying wank after the intermission.

And lastly, a useful list of films in Los Angeles Plays Itself (in order of appearance)

ETA: ZOMG you kids on the internet with your ipods and tubes! LAPI on Youtube
Tags: film, la

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