39 user 56 critic

Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003)

Not Rated | | Documentary, History | January 2004 (USA)
1:21 | Trailer
A documentary on how Los Angeles has been used and depicted in the movies.


Thom Andersen


Thom Andersen (text)
3 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »


Credited cast:
Encke King Encke King ... Narrator (voice)
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Of the cities in the world, few are depicted in and mythologized more in film and television than the city of Los Angeles. In this documentary, Thom Andersen examines in detail the ways the city has been depicted, both when it is meant to be anonymous and when itself is the focus. Along the way, he illustrates his concerns of how the real city and its people are misrepresented and distorted through the prism of popular film culture. Furthermore, he also chronicles the real stories of the city's modern history behind the notorious accounts of the great conspiracies that ravaged his city that reveal a more open and yet darker past than the casual viewer would suspect. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

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Not Rated | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


The narration describes architect John Lautner's famous Chemosphere house as "a hexagon of wood, steel, and glass." The Chemosphere is octagonal. See more »


Features LA Plays Itself (1972) See more »

User Reviews

Mordant, funny and pointed
11 January 2008 | by grcommSee all my reviews

Okay, it's not "entertainment" as someone else complained. And I bet Thom Anderson is damned proud of that! On the other hand, if you are interested in film and American society, this is an endlessly absorbing piece of work, sort of a U.S. version of Chris Marker's provocative and witty dissection of the European left released here as "Grin Without a Cat." This is essay film-making at a very high level of intelligence. Anderson's thesis, wildly over simplified, has to do with the way that American filmmakers use the depiction of L.A. to promote a certain vision of urban society, of architectural modernism and of late capitalism. He draws on such a wide range of film clips -- everything from Samuel Fuller and Robert Aldrich to Michael Mann and Roman Polanski to obscure indie films of the 50s and 60s -- that this film will probably never be released on DVD simply because the rights clearances will take forever. I was particularly struck by his remarks on the cynicism of films like "Chinatown" as fueling a sense of social and political powerlessness among audiences and the comparison to some of the terrific Black indie films of the 60s and 70s, particularly Killer of Sheep.

My only real quibble with the film, and it is not inconsiderable, is that it wasn't clear to me -- admittedly on one viewing -- how the two halves fit together either visually or in terms of the ideas.

But what a pleasure it is to see a movie that HAS ideas, and expresses them with wit and savvy.

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Release Date:

January 2004 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Los Angeles Por Ela Mesma See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,005, 1 August 2004

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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