Tuesday, May 1, 2018

In short: Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003)

Los Angeles Plays Itself is a nearly three hour long film essay by Thom Andersen. It consists nearly exclusively of – usually incredibly well chosen – clips from Hollywood movies, commented on and used to illustrate Andersen’s thoughts. Despite being as personal as it is, the narration is curiously not spoken by Anderson himself but by actor Encke King. It’s a sometimes rambling and digressive meditation on L.A. (Anderson hates this short form, and goes on about that fact forever, so I can’t help but use it here in the spirit of eye-rolling resistance), its depiction and use in and by Hollywood.

At times, this is brilliant, well-argued, thoughtful and thought-provoking, while other parts of the film mostly made me wish someone not the author had edited the script down to lose some of the digressions that reminded me particularly of an old man shaking his stick and shouting about kids and his lawn. What is it with L.A. fans always feeling the need to tell innocent bystanders how horrible their city is misused? There’s also an idea of purity and “realism” the film is very much in love with I abhor, a leftist conservatism (that’s not the discrepancy some may think it is, we got a lot of that style of left-wing thought in Germany, see Adorno about jazz) that is unable to laugh at itself nor able to show a sense of wonder, even when confronted with things that are indeed very funny (not ridiculous, mind you), or cause for great wonder.

But then, I’ve never been much interested in film as a depiction of reality, so it’s no surprise I found myself rolling my eyes at Los Angeles Plays Itself about as often as thinking alongside it. This doesn’t mean I’m not happy that it exists and I have seen it. It will, after all, cause anyone loving films and/or Los Angeles to think about quite a few things connecting and dividing them, and larger concepts and ideas that may or may not intersect this connection. Disagreeing with some of Los Angeles Plays Itself is something it seems to be made for as much as for agreeing with it.

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