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Gary Indiana on Los Angeles Plays Itself

Still from documentary footage of the making of Swordfish (2001) as seen in Thom Andersen’s Los Angeles Plays Itself, 2003, color video, 169 minutes.


THOM ANDERSEN’S film essay Los Angeles Plays Itself—which opens in New York, at Film Forum, in July—would seem to confirm a view that many of us who’ve lived all or part of our lives in Los Angeles have held as a matter of course: to wit, that LA’s a great place to live if you have nothing to do with “the Industry,” in which thirty-nine out of forty Angelenos are neither employed nor especially interested.

The film’s opening sequence illustrates the bogus and silly qualities of “Los Angeles on film,” with footage from B movies like The Crimson Kimono (1959), He Walked by Night (1948), Pushover (1954), Out of Bounds (1986), and The Strip (1951). These blatant duds unfortunately contribute the few moments of humor to be found in Andersen’s film, which relies largely on clips from the worst sorts of films using Los Angeles as a setting, and uses better ones to illustrate “fakery” of

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