L.A.X.

 

L.A.X. deals with slippery concepts of history, memory and how their traces mark the landscape of Los Angeles.  To me, one of the most enduring founding myths of American society is that of non-history - all made possible by a formidable history-erasing machine. Nowhere is this more evident than on the continent's westernmost megalopolis.  It is in Los Angeles that the process of effacing history has become a veritable industry.

Camera:  Rol Murrow, Frank Tomasulo.  Sound: Alex Del Zoppo.  Voices: Maria Laplace / Barbet Schroeder / Bulle Ogier / Pascale Ogier /Beverly Hemberger.  90 minutes (1980)

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Fabrice Ziolkowski's brilliant essay film prowls its way from a bird's-eye view of the Southland in its urban-suburban splendor to the seamier street-level perspective more common to the city dweller. In the process, Ziolkowski's voyeuristic black-and-white camera lingers inquisitively over the Venice canals, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and other iconographic landmarks, while a roundelay of different narrators, reading the work of Halberstam, Godard, Chandler, et al., fill us in on the city's hidden (and often unsavory) history. The film's expansive timeline stretches from the days of Franciscan monks and Indian villages to the irrigating of the San Fernando Valley, the decay of downtown and the ongoing, trenchlike divisions between races and economic classes. The end result is, on one level, a snapshot of Los Angeles at the moment the film was made (1980) and, on another, a record of the city at all moments in all times - past, present and yet to come. A clear influence on subsequent works ranging from Pat O'Neill's Water and Power to Thom Andersen's recent Los Angeles Plays Itself, the film is a seminal achievement in its own right and a valuable contribution to that canon of works about the great, tangled myth of our improbable desert metropolis.  

Scott Foundas - LA Weekly