Los Angeles Plays Itself
is a nearly three hour long documentary that you can kind of look at as a history of film as it relates to the city. It's presented in a way that examines many different aspects of LA (which I now feel guilty for calling it) as portrayed in movies, and then contrasts them with the reality. It may not sound that interesting, but I assure you it is.
The source of entertainment is, primarily, the many clips and sequences from films that are shown one after another to present the filmmakers points. Dozens (hundreds?) of films make appearances, used to show common elements, the differences in portrayal, stereotypes, etc. of many different subjects over the course of the movie. A lot of the clips are really fun, and it really did make me excited to see some of the movies. The narration is also well done and usually very interesting, tying different things together nicely, and both expressing the filmmakers love for his home city, and admonishing the film industry for the issues he addresses within.
Which brings me to my one and only complaint about the movie. The narration, as written by Thom, often goes way too far in annalyzing the films he's using to make his points. He reads significance into everything
, and then treats anything short of reality as a great injustice. He makes generalizations that are often contradicted, and assumptions that are unfair and unlikely. And while I realize the scope of the movie does not really extend beyond LA, many of the points he brings up are true of filmmaking in general and not just applicable to one city, but you wouldn't know it from the way he tells it. None of this affected my enjoyment of the movie that much, but I occasionally found myself annoyed at some off-the-wall claim he would make.
I really had a good time with this movie. In fact, I kinda wish this was a series of movies all based around different cities. Unofficial Bonus Dictation:Titicut Follies
is about the Bridgewater Correctional Institution in Massachusetts (that is, a prison for the mentally unstable). The movie is basically a series of scenes from daily life there. There's no narration, not much structure, and no attempt to explain anything or give it meaning, so you're really left taking the things that are shown for what they are. It really examines two things, crazy people, and the place where the crazy people are kept. The patients vary in craziness, some of them seem pretty normal on the surface, others, well, they're at the other extreme. I couldn't help but feel a little guilty in watching, as if just by observing they were being made a spectacle of, but I guess that's the difficulty with this kind of subject. The whole thing is very sad to witness, with the worst part being the conditions they are forced to live in. Their treatment seems to vary based on their mental condition, but many of them are treated more like animals than humans. They're kept naked much of the time, hosed down in place of baths, in one of the more difficult scenes to watch, a man is force-fed through a feeding tube while being held down on a table. There are multiple instances of borderline abuse from the staff, and although the administration seems to have the best intents, it's shocking to see what the result is.
I'm aware this film was controversial when it was made, and while I can see why, it seems to me the issues it raises awareness on, intentionally or not, were needed at the time. Since then times have changed a lot, so none of that may apply directly today, but it remains an interesting historical movie.
skjerva, many thanks for introducing me to both of these movies, I owe ya' one!