Did you ever notice that the tagline for the Los Angeles Police Department – To Protect And To Serve – is actually in quotes? In Los Angeles Plays Itself, essayist Thom Andersen, teacher of film theory at CalArts, sarcastically suggests that these are air quotes.

In this nearly 3 hours long video essay (available for rental on YouTube and iTunes), Andersen attempts to explain the culture of our fair city via its portrayal in seemingly hundred and video clips – Chinatown, Heat, and Blade Runner are all prominently featured – as is Xanadu! The film was completed in 2003, but was never available officially for public viewing. I saw it a a pseudo-underground screening at the Egyptian Theater in 2004 – it inspired me to make a couple of similar films, here and here.

This cinematic essay is essential viewing – I would argue it is the best film made about L.A. – ahem – Los Angeles. I’ll never cross the St. [sic] Vincent Thomas Bridge again without smiling.


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