Los Angeles Plays Itself

Director: Thom Andersen

Institute History

  • 2004 Sundance Film Festival


Movies bury their traces, choosing for us what to watch, then moving on to something else. They do the work of our voluntary attention, and so we must suppress that faculty as we watch. Our involuntary attention must come to the fore. But what if we watch with our voluntary attention, instead of letting the movies direct us? If we can appreciate documentaries for their dramatic qualities, perhaps we can appreciate fiction films for their documentary revelations.
—Thom Andersen, Los Angeles Plays Itself

Thom Andersen's wickedly observant documentary about the way the city of Los Angeles is represented in the movies seems to purposefully hypnotize viewers to sharpen their awareness of film elements normally taken for granted. This playful, intelligent, and endlessly fascinating historical analysis surveys both well-known films (Chinatown, Blade Runner, L.A. Confidential) and rare finds (The Exiles, Bush Mama, Killer of Sheep), creating a journey that is both nostalgic and insightful. Andersen charmingly interjects his own perceptions as a Los Angeles native, enriching this epic and comprehensive historical tour with personal warmth. Entirely successful in fulfilling its promise, Los Angeles Plays Itself will change the way you watch a film.

— Shari Frilot

Screening Details


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