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'Los Angeles Plays Itself': Kenneth Turan's film pick of the week

November 23, 2011 |  8:30 am

Because it's one of the hardest films to see and has yet to appear on DVD, it's good that the American Cinematheque seems to be making “Los Angeles Plays Itself” a holiday perennial.

One of the best films ever made about Los Angeles, Thom Andersen’s exceptional documentary, a 2-hour, 49-minute essay/meditation and labor of love on how this city has been depicted on the screen, can't be seen too often.

Smart, insightful, unapologetically idiosyncratic and bristling with provocative ideas, “Los Angeles” serves up segments from more than 200 films, from 1913’s “A Muddy Romance” to 1974's  “Chinatown” and beyond.

Appealingly discursive and filled with intriguing detours, the film finally agrees with the narrator in Jacques Demy’s “Model Shop,” who says, “It’s a fabulous city. To think some people claim it’s an ugly city when it’s really pure poetry, it just kills me.”

“Los Angeles Plays Itself” screens Friday at 7:30 p.m. (with director Andersen appearing) at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., in Hollywood.


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--Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo: A scene from Thom Andersen's "Los Angeles Plays Itself." Credit: American Cinematheque.

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