Saturday, 14 April 2012

Cinematic Adventures Around the World - Part 1: LA

Firstly a warning; though my title says "Part 1: LA" I have no intention of writing an entry for every city and in all liklihood this will be the only one I bother to write while travelling.

When talking about my trip before I left home a lot of people warned me to get out of LA as soon as I could. No one outside of LA seems to like it. But being interested in film history I figured I at least needed to spend a few days there. Although I didn't hate my time in LA, and was never bored, there's no denying that the city's seeming lack of personality and soul meant it didn't endear itself to me. It took me days to figure out what LA was all about, what its thing was, and even now I'm not sure I've got it right. As far as personality and culture goes, LA is Hollywood and nothing more. The film industry which fuelled the city's development seemingly robbed it of the chance to be anything more than that.

You can't do a sight-seeing tour without being dragged through the hills at a crawl to glimpse celebrities' houses and cars. Every landmark visited is accompanied by the phrase "you might remember this from movies such as..." Walking through Chinatown I found this:

The pole is in the way. Guess which Jackie Chan "Best Seller Movie" it is!
 Venice Beach, famous for its murals features one of what the area would have looked like in the late 19th century. This mural includes Charlie Chaplin, who wouldn't have been famous until decades later. This choronological inaccuracy reflects the city's inability to remember its own existence before the movies.

Yes the villain from Kindergarten Cop

 My cynicism towards the city's celebrity worship was the reason behind my ironic excitement about meeting Richard Tyson =>
and my reason for only taking a photo of Boyz II Men on Hollywood Boulevard. But perhaps even this parody justifies the culture.

I think the thing that bothered me most about LA was its people's lack of respect for the privacy of its celebrities failures. My tour guide cheerfully pointed out the intersection where Halle Berry did a hit and run, and the Saks Fifth Ave. where Winona Ryder was caught shoplifting. Souvenir stores too boast "maps to movies stars homes and crime scenes". With the city's inhabitants so willing to air its dirty laundry and flog its misfortune for profit it's no wonder LA comes across as soulless. But if the film industry has destroyed LA's chance of a real history and culture, perhaps its inhabitants are justified in milking it for all its worth.

For those who are intersted in the relationship between LA and Hollywood I would highly recommend a documentary called Los Angeles Plays Itself. The entire thing is on Youtube.
It's hard to read, but yes, they have a star. Yes it is the only one I photographed.

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