Los Angeles plays itself (Thom Andersen). 169 minutes. Opens Friday (May 27) at the Royal. For times, see Indie & Rep Film, page 110. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Thom Andersen loves movies and really loves Los Angeles, so he's well qualified to deliver this compulsively watchable, detailed and exhaustive visual essay about how directors have captured his hometown ("the most photographed city in the world") in films both big and small.
The long doc (it's divided by an old-fashioned intermission) grew out of Andersen's lectures at California's Institute of the Arts, and it's full of great ideas and illustrative film clips. Among other things, Andersen explores why movie villains tend to live in cold Modernist buildings, and convincingly shows how noir films like Double Indemnity helped brand the city as the adultery and murder capital of the nation.
Predictably, Andersen spends a lot of time deconstructing such iconic City of Angels films as Chinatown and L.A. Confidential, and explains why some directors hate the city ( Woody Allen , Alfred Hitchcock ) or love it ( Michelangelo Antonioni , Jacques Demy ).
He's got some novel ideas about the importance of transportation in L.A. (The absence of the movie Speed, set mostly on a bus, is regrettable.) And he's not above discussing schlock like Earthquake, Xanadu and The Terminator to prove a point.
This film played the Toronto festival two years ago, so there are no comments on major films like Collateral and Crash made since then. But Andersen whets our appetite for lesser-known films like Kent MacKenzie 's 1961 The Exiles and Haile Gerima 's 1976 Bush Mama.