Thom Anderson Retrospective

Documentary director Thom Anderson will attend and introduce NWFF's mini-retrospective of his work, which deserves to be much better known. In his absorbing, high-minded, nearly three-hour-long Los Angeles Plays Itself, he examines how his hometown, the hometown of the entertainment industry, is usually cast as a bland, convenient cinematic backdrop—a generic anywhere that doesn’t impose its identity like New York. “If we notice the location, we’re not really watching the movie,” says Anderson. But his thesis is that, by doing the former, we discover a hidden documentary about his precious, authentic Los Angeles within the latter. He finds traces of the city’s history in almost every frame: the lost downtown working-class neighborhood of Bunker Hill; the riots of Watts and Rodney King; the crypto-fascist LAPD glorified in Dragnet and partly exposed in L.A. Confidential. Not that he likes that picture (unlike Dragnet, for which he professes kitsch admiration, even comparing Jack Webb to Ozu and Bresson). He also studies how the city is used in Chinatown, Blade Runner, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Grand Canyon, and Short Cuts. Outside of a film school, this is the best lecture—and architectural tour—you’re going to find about a misunderstood city that’s long overdue for its close-up. (NR) BRIAN MILLER

March 26-29, 7 p.m., 2011

 
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