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Notebook on Cities and Culture S2E16: Reality’s More Interesting with Thom Andersen

Colin Marshall sits down in Silver Lake with Thom Andersen, professor at the California Institute of the Arts’ School of Film/Video and director of films including Red Hollywood, the new Reconversion, and the well-known documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself, on the truth and falsity of the city’s representation in motion pictures. They discuss The Fast and the Furious shooting on his street; the end of the current era of impressive car chases crafted by Nicolas Winding Refn and Quentin Tarantino; H.B. Halicki’s original Gone in 60 Seconds, and the importance of its literalism regarding greater Los Angeles’ South Bay; how rarely mainstream cinematic interest looks beyond white people of “immodest means,” and what the films that do go beyond them achieve (such as the creation of detective films that actually involve detecting); Killer of Sheep, Boyz n the Hood, and the differences between garden-variety “gang movies” and those that truthfully deal with survival; the questions to do with the black population, bank bailouts, and the destruction of the working class he believes movies could address but rarely do; how much more interesting reality is than our imaginations, which by now have long since filled up with junk; Los Angeles as a representational battleground, and the way filmmakers have an alibi here not to do important work; the native’s lack of advantage in understanding this city, and the outsider’s advantage in making it strange again, as seen in Zabriskie Point, The Outside Man, Model Shop, and Point Blank; the changes in Los Angeles, how they vanish in comparison to the changes in major Asian cities, and how they have for the most part taken place among the people rather than in the infrastructure; the racism of Crash versus the naïveté of Falling Down; his continuing fascination with the Los Angeles wherein people struggle to make a living; and what fillms and books can to do change minds, given that they so often make minds in the first place.

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