Introducing: L.A. Confidential – A Celebration of the City of Angels
Simran Hans introduces a new series that looks at the home of Hollywood, Los Angeles.
“I loved the way she said ‘L.A.’; I love the way everybody says ‘L.A.’ on the Coast; it’s their one and only golden town when all is said and done”, rhapsodies Jack Kerouac in his literary love letter to America, On the Road. Kerouac’s words ring true today – there’s something truly magical about Los Angeles, California. The setting of classics like Chinatown, Magnolia, Rebel Without a Cause, Pulp Fiction, Boyz N the Hood and Drive to name but a few, Los Angeles plays muse to some of Hollywood’s most important cult directors. Indeed, it is the home of Hollywood, a kind of dream factory where fantasies are realised and transformed into something tangible. From Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen’s Singin’ in the Rain to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights, the city has been consistently depicted on celluloid as a hub of youth, sex and popular culture, thronging with the glamorous and the beautiful.
However, beneath the city’s glimmering surface, these films reveal a dirty, dangerous underbelly of rampant individualism, crime and police corruption. L.A. is depicted as a place where stars are born – or rather, produced – stars whose dreams of fame and fortune descend all-too-quickly into cataclysms of indulgence, addiction and self-destruction. The films that we will be examining peel back the city’s shallow trappings and re-envisage Los Angeles as an epicentre of pornography, prostitution and moral bankruptcy. Brian Michael Goss writes that prostitution in L.A. based films like Boogie Nights is shown to be “a transaction that is undertaken in a treacherous world of unregulated capitalism”. L.A. then, is perhaps the perfect backdrop for stories rooted in consumer culture – stories that seek to make transparent the way in which the marketplace makes it easy for avarice and vice to thrive.
And yet, Los Angeles, cruel mistress of Tinseltown, queen of excess, is never chastised for her moral depravity – rather, these films seek to reveal the uncanny disjuncture between appearance and reality, revelling in the gap between the two. Fragmenting identity, blurring dreams with reality and deconstructing allure as artifice, they reveal the threads of loneliness and amorality that connect these films.
Over the next few weeks, Kubrick on the Guillotine will be going on a whirlwind tour of the city, guided by our excellent writers. From the Hollywood Hills to the San Fernando Valley, we’ll be talking Club Silencio, collateral damage and cars, stopping off for a Royale with cheese along the way. Our writers will be delving into the onscreen representation of the changing studio system, the mythology of Hollywood, the dark pursuit of fame, crime and the city’s noir beginnings, trash culture and why Los Angeles is the perfect setting for art concerned with art. Join them for the ride as they take a critical look at films including Mulholland Drive, Magnolia, The Long Goodbye, The Player, Short Cuts and Collateral.