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CalArts Faculty, Thom Andersen, celebrates 10th anniversary of documentary

SEPTEMBER 23, 2013
Variety

'Los Angeles Plays Itself' A Decade Later

Scott Foundas

At Friday’s 10th anniversary screening of his documentary “Los Angeles Plays Itself” at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, filmmaker Thom Andersen told the audience, “It’s not an update. I didn’t see the need.“The way movies foreclose the possibility of emancipatory politics has not changed,” he added, and the gulf between an impoverished working class and a wealthy one percent — another running theme of Andersen’s film — is “even more of a truism now” than it was in 2003.

And yet, much is new about “Los Angeles Plays Itself,” Andersen’s encyclopedic, sardonic valentine to his adopted hometown and how it has been represented — for better and worse — by its most famous local industry. For starters, Andersen has remastered “Los Angeles” (which was made at the tail end of the analog video era) in high definition, replacing most of the thousands of film clips excerpted therein with HD source material. In addition, Andersen said, he’s done “a bit of re-editing” to fix “those things that were annoying me,” including moving up the intermission of the 170-minute feature from the 104-minute mark to 92 minutes in. A few clips have been extended, a few others removed.

In most other respects, “Los Angeles Plays Itself” remains very much what audiences first saw — or more likely, didn’t — a decade ago. Despite premiering to great acclaim at the 2003 Toronto Film Festival and playing extensively on the festival circuit for the next year, the film has maintained a largely clandestine existence ever since, circulated among cinephiles and architecture buffs on bootleg DVDs and YouTube links, and periodically revived by the American Cinematheque (where it had its first local screenings back in 2004). Due to copyright concerns over the unlicensed film clips, commercial distributors were understandably wary of Andersen’s magnum opus — a situation, the filmmaker noted happily at Friday’s screening, that may finally be changing. Read more

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