Los Angeles Saves Itself

Thom Andersen is an Angelino who teaches film and video program  at CalArts and shows a protective adoration of his city through his 2003 docmentary "Los Angeles Plays Itself.”   He also ended up saving a film.

The Andersen directed documentary is a three hour tour compiled from 200 films that defends Los Angeles, as the NY Times says, “against the cultural imperialism of Hollywood.’”

According to the website,  Andersen “ works in a tradition pioneered by Godard, Chris Marker and Agnes Varda. His enthralling essay investigates '50s B-movies that use Los Angeles as the epitome of urban sleaze, science fiction classics that revel in destroying its tallest buildings, and film noirs that paint it the nation's capital for adultery and murder.”

The film is also credited to bringing a lost 1961 gem, The Exiles, back to the screen.  The Kent MacKenzie's film follows young Native American men and women living on Bunker Hill and while it filmed over a year,  the story chronicles one night of characters based on the cast. Both city and subjects in this social narrative become a symbol of alienation, and after its first screening in 1961, wasn’t seen again until July of 2008.

Andersen contacted the daughters of Mackenzie to gain permission to use clips from The Exiles, that features a 1950s Downtown, Broadway and Bunker Hill. The interest gained from The Exiles appearance in Los Angles Plays Itself, led to a restoration by preservationists.

American Cinematheque will screen  "Los Angeles Plays Itself" at the Egyptian Theatre this Sunday, October 12.  Due to the costs of securing rights for all the clips, these screenings are the only way to see the film.

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