Double feature: The L.A. depicted in movies can feel like a really spatially dislocating place. Characters rarely walk from one location to another, and though they’re often shown stuck in traffic or racing somewhere in their cars, such little attention is paid to the streets they’re driving through that they might as well be teleporting between destinations.
“L.A. Story” and “Valley Girl,” two Los Angeles-set films, can help counteract this disorientation. Both affectionately portray their city as a tangible place – dreamy, but still solid, traversable. Both are careful to show how their characters get from point A to point B, and lavish attention on the roadside attractions, eclectic architecture, and other endearing details of L.A. life they whizz by en route.
Both movies turn a gentle, amused eye on the different personalities pulled into their city’s orbit, and on the homegrown characters who are sunned and watered within its sprawling borders.
Both give you a real sense of place, and of possible lives lived there. These modestly-scaled love letters to L.A. depict a city that is kooky and earnest, elitist and accepting, graceful and garish, all at once.
Bonus points to “Valley Girl” for a killer soundtrack, and to “L.A. Story” for the continued relevance of much of its satire.
For a marathon: “Los Angeles Plays Itself” provides a more rigorous, more comprehensive exploration of L.A.’s filmic depictions.
(Creative Commons licensed original images courtesy of “KaroliK” and “tipsycat” at Flickr)