Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003) - Rotten Tomatoes

Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003)



Critic Consensus: A treat for cinephiles, this documentary is a comprehensive, academic, and enlightening film essay concerning Los Angeles and its depiction in the movies.

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Movie Info

CalArts professor Thom Andersen directs the digital video essay film Los Angeles Plays Itself, titled after a gay porn classic by Fred Halsted (L.A. Plays Itself). Using clips from well-known mainstream movies to lesser-known obscurities, Andersen explores the myths and realities of the city as produced by Hollywood and as viewed by contemporary philosophy. He divides the film into three segments: "The City as Background," "The City as Character," and "The City as Subject." In addition to the pre-manufactured images, he also provides footage of the actual landscape, showcasing structures like Union Station and LAX. His commentary touches on various political and social views of the city, often voiced through criticism or praise of other filmmakers and their work. Encke King delivers the narration. Los Angeles Plays Itself was shown at the 2003 Toronto Film Festival.
Documentary , Drama , Musical & Performing Arts , Special Interest , Television
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Encke King
as Narrator

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Critic Reviews for Los Angeles Plays Itself

All Critics (44) | Top Critics (22)

A definitive statement about how the movies have distorted our perceptions of this city's architectural, cultural and historical identity ..

Full Review… | September 1, 2016
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Blends a complex kaleidoscopic portrait of the city and a powerful work of film criticism with Andersen's personal story of living in Los Angeles.

Full Review… | April 4, 2016
New Yorker
Top Critic

Andersen's inspired ruminations about his city as a filming location and as a repository for other filmmakers' daydreams and nightmares.

Full Review… | September 18, 2014
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

One of the great films of the century to date, poignant and affecting.

Full Review… | January 1, 2014
Village Voice
Top Critic

CalArts professor Thom Andersen poured a lifetime of moviegoing (and his own complex affection for the city he calls home) into this revelatory two-part documentary, a film that trains you to look at things askew.

Full Review… | December 31, 2013
Time Out
Top Critic

Using well-chosen clips from roughly 200 films, many of them obscure, Andersen makes a powerful and impassioned case for reassessing his beloved city.

Full Review… | October 14, 2005
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Los Angeles Plays Itself

The first part of this documentary is interesting and fun, but skip the second half as it's bog down into the director's take on what he thinks other directors have interpreted LA to be.

Kevin Shannon
Kevin Shannon

A love letter to the city of LA and the films that revolve around it. Director Thom Andersen brings a lot of knowledge and insight into how the reputation and image of LA has been translated on screen. It's probably only interesting for cinephiles, or maybe fans of Los Angeles, but for me this really worked.

Nathan Martin
Nathan Martin

highly entertaining and full of fascinating information about films set in and around los angeles, it's a documentary made entirely from clips of other films (roughly 200 of them)! of course, this caused some licensing issues and so it's never been properly released, only playing festivals here and there, but guess what? it's on youtube in 12 parts, starting here: http://youtu.be/7SNc41zyLJ0

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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