SOMEHOW, I ended up with the film Cyrus, staring John C. Reilly, in my Netflix queue. It was suggested for one reason or another -- one that I'm still not quite clear about. It's a romantic comedy with a tilt, I guess you could say. Once I began watching it, however, I found myself more interested in not what was going on plot wise, but what was going on in the background -- literally. The backdrop of the film is Los Angeles.
The architecture, the slope of the hills, the quality of sunlight: Much of it looked as if it was shot in Northeast L.A. -- Silver Lake, Echo Park -- or was meant to be translated as such. The houses the characters inhabited were California Bungalows or modest stucco domiciles surrounded by vibrant tangles of bougainvillaea and agave. It was Paradise enclosed and protected by a picket fence or a brief retaining wall. For each character, that plot of land was the postage stamp of Los Angeles' promise -- despite the mayhem exploding in their personal lives.
This on-screen glimpse, through a filmmaker's eye made me think about how enchanting this Los Angeles looked through the camera and about other films that have chosen to focus as well that quiet natural beauty -- that Arcadia, we've been talking about -- rather than the forced Hollywood plastic glam Los Angeles often seems to be defined by.
Have any of you seen Steve Martin's Shop Girl? I remember watching this film and also making an mental note that Steve Martin really does see the beauty of Los Angeles alongside the complicated lives we work through. Light too plays an important part, as well as the architecture (and the defining characteristics of neighborhoods) that help to delineate communities and sketch characters.
So, I thought I'd put together a brief list of films that show off Los Angeles' nuanced beauty -- the light, the flora, the sense of personal space and the freedom that comes with that.
Here's the trailer for Cyrus:
This film, Quincinera, also set in Echo Park, feels very much like a walk through the city during a very particular time in L.A. -- the early to mid 90s as the neighborhood began to gentrify.
Check out the Lincoln Lawyer for views of Highland Park and georgeous Echo Park sunset-to-twilight.