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The Wednesday Debate

The Wednesday Debate – L.A Stories

Welcome to this week’s edition of The Wednesday Debate. Every Wednesday we pose a question, inviting debate on a particular subject. This week, to tie-in with the release of Drive, we take in the finest Los Angeles-set films. File your own favourites away in the comments section below. 

Thief

No filmmakers work defines Los Angeles quite like that of Michael Mann. Thief is probably the most reference film in the critical evaluation of Drive, with its neon-noir stylings mimicked to perfection in Nicolas Windin-Refn’s film, which also sees character similarities between that films unnamed protagonist and Thief’s Frank. Mann approached the city 20 years later with a spiritual sequel of sorts, Collateral, which sees another unwilling participant fall in to being involved with a criminal act. Part of me hopes that Mann will one day formally revisit Thief, utilising his current technological preferences. A digitally shot Thief could be a thing of grandeur.

American Gigolo

Paul Schrader would prove to be locale ambidextrous, with his works defining several geographical spaces within the United States. What he did for New York with Taxi Driver and Detroit with Blue Collar he does here with Los Angeles.

Boogie Nights

Paul Thomas Anderson has long ground his work in the State of California, with only his debut removed from the locale in which the director grew up in. Boogie Nights is perhaps the filmmakers greatest celebration of his home town, with the San Fernando Valley setting home to a work that is one of the most deftly brilliant of the 1990′s.

Mulholland Dr.

While Boogie Nights explored the underside film industry of the Hollywood Hills, David Lynch’s masterpiece takes a look at the underside of *the* film industry itself. In a manner that harks back to the finest dark Hollywood pics of the past, Mulholland Dr. is part obscure dream, and part scathing judgement of the studio system. While not as sinister a film, one can’t help but recall Sunset Boulevard, the geographical and spiritual sister of Lynch’s film when evaluating Mulholland Dr.

Los Angeles Plays Itself

Some might be correct in making a case for Thom Andersen’s documentary being the ultimate Los Angeles film. Rights difficulties have kept the film out of commercial view for some time now (although it is occasionally screened at film festivals, and pops up on YouTube from time to time), due to the cut and paste nature of the work. For those unfamiliar with Los Angeles Plays Itself, Andersen attempts to reconstruct the film on screen using hundreds of clips from as many films. The diverse likes of To Live And Die In L.A, Cobra, Zabriskie Point and The Omega Man all feature in this 3-hour cinematic mosaic, with the end resulting a breathtaking accomplishment.

So, what are your favourite L.A set tales? Disagree with any of our selections? Fire away in the comments below.

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3 thoughts on “The Wednesday Debate – L.A Stories

  1. Rgrivan says:

    Chinatown is the clearly a movie which needs to be on the above list. A film which digs into the cold, dark heart of the city during its “Golden Age” – it has a timeless quailty, and is still the Noir to beat.

    Beyond that, I would say Blade Runner – sure it doesn’t use the locales of L.A – but it is one of the most iconic uses of the city, and in fact, with the ethnic diversity on the streets – plays into what modern L.A is like.

    And Skyline obviously.

  2. It may be the easy answer, but when I think of Los Angeles-centered films I almost always jump immediately to Altman’s ‘Short Cuts’. Sunset Blvd., though is probably my absolute favorite. Yep, even tops Mulholland. What can I say, I’m keeping it old school…

  3. I’d suggest The Killing of a Chinese Bookie from John Cassavetes. A gritty and influential piece displaying the urban sleeze of the city.

    Another fantastic insight is Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep, shot for about $10k in glorious black and white. Rarely seen until being restored a couple of years ago and its available on DVD in the UK.

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