Pirate Cinema 3

The City Is Big, The Image is Small
Sunday,  January 18, 2009.
7 pm - 10 pm
at CAMP rooftop.

Los Angeles Plays Itself
Thom Andersen
USA 2003
179 mins, 1.4 GB

This is the city: Los Angeles, California. They make movies here. I live here.

Sometimes I think that gives me the right to criticize the way movies depict my city.

I know it's not easy. The city is big. The image is small. Movies are vertical.
At least when they're projected on a screen. The city is horizontal, except for what we call downtown. Maybe that's why the movies love downtown more than we do. If it isn't the site of the action, they try to stick its high-rise towers in the back of the shot.

But movies have some advantages over us.

They can fly through the air. We must travel by land.

They exist in space. We live and die in time.

So why should I be generous?

Of course, I know movies aren't about places, they're about stories. If we notice the location, we are not really watching the movie. It's what's up front that counts. 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.

And what if suspense is just another alienation effect. Isn't that what Hitchcock taught? For him, suspense was a means of enlivening his touristy
travelogues. Then maybe I can find another way to animate this city symphony in reverse. Maybe this effort to see how movies depict Los Angeles may seem more than wrong-headed or mean-spirited.

Full script:
List of references:
Review by Jonathan Rosenbaum:

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