Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003)

Ah, the wonders of Youtube, even if, alas, one of the 12 parts of this film got nobbled for copyright infringement… Amazing that they blocked just that one bit of the video, though, when the whole thing—an examination of the history of the cinematic representation of Los Angeles—is a morass of uncleared clips (and the occasional bit of director Thom Andersen’s own footage). On reflection, I wonder if the Internet isn’t the natural home for something like this; in more recent times there’s also been net-released videos like this and this, so with LAPI stuck in bootleg limbo anyway, Youtube might’ve been the best place for it. Anyway, interesting to watch this after Histoire(s) du cinéma, and—as I kind of expected—I liked it rather more than the Godard film, perhaps because Andersen’s film is over an hour and a half shorter than Godard’s, and also because the points it tries to raise are actually clear and Andersen seems more interested in actually communicating than Godard. Thought it was interesting that Andersen’s narration, though first-person, is actually done by someone else, but otherwise it’s an obviously personal project, with some perhaps personal prejudices on show; I don’t fully understand his loathing of the abbreviation “LA” when talking of his city. But Andersen still brings to this fascinatingly varied assortment of film and TV clips (including bits of the legendary gay porn film LA Plays Itself, from which this film takes its own name) an interesting insider’s perspective that highlights things an obvious non-Angeleno like me wouldn’t even think about; I particularly liked the way he showed how films keep dumping on LA’s celebrated modernist architecture by making them the residences of criminals and psychos, his comparison of the cops in LA Confidential with the even worse real LAPD of the 1950s, and his distinction between “high tourist” and “low tourist” filmmakers. At 169 it’s still pretty long, and not a terribly easy haul, but definitely one of the best documentaries on film out there. Start watching it HERE.

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