05 August 2009

The Decade List: Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003)

Los Angeles Plays Itself - dir. Thom Anderson

Likely to never see an official release due to the surplus of copyrighted film footage used within the film, Thom Anderson's fascinating Los Angeles Plays Itself is simply one of the best examples of films about film to emerge this decade. Consisting of a surplus of movie clips, with examples as varied as Double Indemnity, Zabriskie Point, the original Gone in 60 Seconds, Blade Runner, Body Double, Swordfish, Night of the Comet and the landmark gay porn from which it takes its name L.A. Plays Itself, Los Angeles Plays Itself is Anderson's filmic essay on the fallacies the history of cinema has projected upon the city he calls home.

Described as "the most photographed and least photogenic city in the world." Anderson's observations, which are sardonically narrated by Encke King, never strive for a sense of objectivity, hence the nasty jabs at a quintessentially New York filmmaker like Woody Allen or the question as to whether geographical continuity errors are inherent of lousy films like Death Wish 4: The Crackdown. With sections of the nearly three-hour-long film based around Chinatown, Double Indemnity, William A. Wellman's Public Enemy and John Boorman's Point Blank, Anderson examines the various ideas that the respective filmmakers convey (or don't convey, in the case of Public Enemy in which Los Angeles substitutes for Chicago) about the city.

Certain notions presented in the film sound overly generalized, and some of the repeated clips are questionable (The Replacement Killers shows up on numerous occasions). Nevertheless, three hours couldn't fully address all the ways in which over a hundred years of cinema has perpetrated illusions about the most recognized movie-making town in the world, and what Anderson does confront in the Los Angeles Plays Itself is absolutely compelling.

Narrator: Encke King
Screenplay: Thom Anderson
Cinematography: Deborah Stratman
Country of Origin: USA
US Distributor: Submarine Entertainment

Premiere: 7 September 2003 (Toronto International Film Festival)
US Premiere: January 2004 (Sundance Film Festival)

Awards: Best Documentary (Vancouver International Film Festival)