L.A. Times Review (exerpt):
By Kenneth Turan
Los Angeles Plays Itself’
The metropolis is exposed in a clip-laden documentary about its role in cinema, classic and otherwise.
It is a remarkable work, quite likely the best documentary on the City of Angels ever made…
…Thom Andersen’s 2-hour, 49-minute “Los Angeles Plays Itself,” a cinematic essay/meditation and labor of love on how this city has been depicted on the screen. Smart, insightful, unapologetically idiosyncratic and bristling with provocative ideas, it’s as sprawling and multi-faceted, fascinating and frustrating as L.A. (an abbreviation Andersen despises) itself.
…the heart of “Los Angeles Plays Itself” (and the reason why a commercial release is problematic) is brilliant and extensive use of clips from a hoard of feature films.
Starting with a startling opening shot of distraught stripper Sugar Torch running on a downtown street, from Sam Fuller’s “Crimson Kimono,” through a closing segment on the black independent films “Bush Mama,” “Killer of Sheep” and “Bless Their Little Hearts,” Andersen serves up segments of more than 200 films, from 1913’s “A Muddy Romance” through 2001’s “Hanging Up.” Truly, as the voice-over read by fellow independent filmmaker Encke King suggests, this has to be the most photographed city in the world.
These are not just any clips from any films. Andersen seems to have seen all movies made with a local connection. He’s familiar with everything from Laurel and Hardy’s 1932 classic “The Music Box” and the 1972 gay porn film “L.A. Plays Itself,” which gives Andersen’s work its name, to “Howling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf” and “Death Wish 4: The Crackdown.” Working closely with editor Yoo Seung-Hyun, he also has impeccable taste in what to select.
With its tart, acerbic tone and politically progressive stance, “Los Angeles Plays Itself” was clearly made by a sophisticated insider, someone who loves the city, is capable of comparing “Dragnet” to the work of Bresson and Ozu, and has no tolerance for the reason its name got shortened in popular usage (“Only a city with an inferiority complex would allow it”).
…Brilliantly discursive, filled with intriguing detours that follow connections only the director’s mind could make, “Los Angeles Plays Itself,” will please natives of this city more than any other. Finally, the film agrees with the narrator in Jacque Demy’s “Model Shop,” who says, “It’s a fabulous city. To think some people claim it’s an ugly city when it’s really pure poetry, it just kills me.”
‘Los Angeles Plays Itself’
MPAA rating: Unrated
Times guidelines: Complex thematic material
Best Documentary of 2004.
Scott Tobias, The Onion (A.V. Club)
“Arguably the best movie about movies ever made.”
Edward Havens, FilmJerk.com
“An ultimate movie clip junkie film, a video store fantasy with a pulse and a brain.”
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid
“Using well-chosen clips from roughly 200 films, many of them obscure, Andersen makes a powerful and impassioned case for reassessing his beloved city.”
John McMurtrie, San Francisco Chronicle
“An intellectually rigorous but enjoyable essay on the way the city of angels has become Hollywood’s favourite location.”
Jamie Russell, BBC
“Three words of advice to those who haven’t yet seen it: Run, don’t walk.”
Scott Foundas, L.A. Weekly