You’ll start liking Los Angeles as soon as you get rid of this crazy idea that Los Angeles is a city. LA is actually an immense galaxy of 13 million people of many different origins. A big shapeless body with the freeways as arteries. A network of highways cutting across the city and connecting distant and diverse realities from the areas in the foothills of the San Gabriel mountains to the beach cities on the Pacific Ocean, from the golden ghettos like Beverly Hills to the Gangs ghettos.
First rule if you live in Los Angeles: you MUST have a car. Second rule: you MUST have a car. This city has been the guinea pig of the American car industry powerful lobby which smashed with no mercy all rail and underground public transportation projects. There are about 27 million cars in LA, the most polluted city in the US. Freeways and highways can be a daily nightmare but they also have a sort of magnetic charm as they become wider and wider…4, 6, 8, 10 lanes or when they narrow down and twist in such unrealistic way. They also have legendary names…Ventura Highway, Pacific Coast Highway.
Many cities are considered attractive because of their contradictions. Then LA is fantastic and fragile paradox: built on San Andreas fault in a water scarce area still it is the city with the highest number of swimming-pools in the whole world. It’s the third richest metro are in the world but almost 3 million people have no health insurance and 1.5 million live below poverty line. It enjoys 330 days of sun a year and suffers from flooding and landslides. It is the place where Afro-American Tom Bradley was elected mayor for 5 consecutive times (as from 1973) and where racial riots broke out when the police brutalized Afro-American Rodney King. It is home for almost 2 million people from El Salvador (almost 1/4 of the inhabitants of this country) and there are more Armenians than in Yerevan. There is Little Tokyo, Koreatown, Chinatown, Teherangeles, Filipinotown. There even 70.000 people from Laos. And of course 25 million tourists every year who come to see what they see in films, in TV, what they hear about in songs.
Raymond Chandler defined LA as “the big hard boiled city, with no more personality than a paper cup”. Maybe Los Angeles – originally El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula – is a container of scarce value…but the content is very strong and addictive.
Si inizia ad apprezzare Los Angeles quando finalmente ci si libera dall’idea che sia una città. LA é infatti una sterminata galassia popolata da 13 milioni di abitanti di ogni origine e provenienza, un grande corpo informe in cui le Freeways fungono da arterie. Una rete di strade e superstrade che prescindono dalla(e) città, la tagliano in lungo e in largo – a differenza del modello classico di tangenziali e circonvallazioni – e collegano realtà distanti e diversissime fra loro dalle zone ai piedi delle San Gabriel Mountains fino alle “beach cities” del Pacifico, dai ghetti dorati alla Beverly Hills a quelli delle gangs.
La prima regola se vivi a Los Angeles é: devi avere una macchina. La seconda regola é: devi avere una macchina. Questa città é la cavia dell’industria automobilistica americana che per anni attraverso la sua potentissima lobby ha schiacciato sul nascere tutti i progetti di trasporto pubblico sotterraneo e su rotaia. Ci sono circa 27 milioni di automobili a LA che ne fanno la città piu’ inquinata d’America. Le freeways e le highways sono tantissime e trafficatissime. Possono trasformarsi in un incubo ma hanno anche un fascino unico con il loro continuo allargarsi da 4 a 6 a 8 a 10 corsie, con il loro piegarsi e restringersi in modo illogico ed innaturale e con dei nomi evocativi quali la mitica “Ventura Highway” o la “Pacific Coast Highway”.
Di molte città si dice spesso che siano belle per le loro contraddizioni. Los Angeles allora é uno splendido paradosso vivente. Costruita in fragile equilibrio sulla faglia di Sant’Andrea in una zona originariamente povera di acqua, é la città al mondo con piu’ piscine. E’ la terza area metropolitana piu’ ricca del mondo e vi abitano quasi 3 milioni di persone senza assicurazione sanitaria e piu’ di un milione e mezzo di poveri ed emarginati. E’ baciata dal sole per 330 giorni l’anno e soggetta ad allagamenti e smottamenti nei pochi giorni di pioggia. E’ la città dei 5 mandati – a partire dal 1973 – al sindaco nero Tom Bradley e quella delle riots del 1992 in seguito al pestaggio del nero Rodney King da parte della polizia. E’ la città dei quasi 2 milioni di salvadoregni – un quarto della popolazione di El Salvador – quella degli armeni piu’ numerosi che a Yerevan, quella di Little Tokyo, Koreatown, Chinatown, Teherangeles, Filipinotown. Perfino quella dei laotiani (70.000), dei cambogiani e ovviamente dei 25 milioni di turisti che la visitano ogni anno per avere conferma che tutto quello che vedono nei film, in televisione, quello che ascoltano nelle canzoni esiste davvero.
Raymond Chandler si riferiva a LA come “the big hard boiled city, with no more personality than a paper cup”. Magari Los Angeles – originariamente El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula – sarà anche un recipiente difficile da decifrare e di scarso valore ma il contenuto é senza dubbio molto forte e puo’ creare dipendenza.
(english version will possibly follow later)
Foto di Colin Rich
LA Weekly is the definitive source of information for news, music, movies, restaurants, reviews, and events in Los Angeles. Every year they organize a “Film Poll” with 95 critics from across the US voting for their favorite films, performances, and filmmakers in 12 categories. Terence Malick’s “The tree of life” – winner in Cannes – was voted as best movie in 2011. Silver medal for the fantastic “A separation”, Iranian film by Ashgar Farhadi whiwh was a splendid Golden Bear in Berlin. Third place for the MEDIA supported “Melancholia” by Lars Von Trier. Actually, not that bad as a poll…
And which film would you vote yourself as 2011 best?
I loved “A Separation” but my favourite this year has been the Russian HOW I ENDED THIS SUMMER by Alexei Popogrebsky. Space, light, silences, tension…a real masterpiece. I loved it.
Watch the trailer: How I ended this summer.
Colin Rich e la Cinematik Orchestra…
After a short and very turbulent flight to London and a very long and smooth crossing of the Atlantic flying over Iceland, Greenland and Canada, I finally landed at LAX, Los Angeles International Airport at the very (west) end of the American continent. Even if until the new year I am technically on holidays, I was very excited to see immediately the campus of the University of Southern California (USC) and meet the new colleagues of International Relation Center. I was welcomed very warmly by Prof. John Odell and Robert English and by all members of faculty and staff. I have also received a bit of homework for the holyday period: commenting and reviewing the syllabus of the course of Prof. Maia Cross on “Regional Studies in Public Diplomacy: Europe”. I had also the chance to visit briefly the Anneberg School of Communication and Journalism and saw the door of the office of Manuel Castells, a real legend for somebody who works on media literacy. He was’nt there but I hope to be able to meet him one day or another. In any case the Campus is just amazing: a city in the heart of a city. Clearly there are fantastic sport facilities including two olympic swimming pools and a whole stadium for athletics. Many Olympic medals have been gained by USC alumni. Do the names of Don Quarrie and Felix Sanchez ring a bell?
Finally, the weather…well, just great…a sort of permanent northern Mediterrenean spring.
I leave you with a question…who do you think it is the person with by far the best salary of the USC ? The President, the Dean…or somebody else?
I have been working on media issues dealing with radio, TV, internet and cinema – European cinema – for about all my professional life and I have always been puzzled by the paradoxical relation, a sort of love & hate, between Europe and America as regards to films. On the one hand there is possibly (only) one thing that really unites European people today irrespective of their language, their origin or their culture: a love for American cinema. On the other, Europe’s identity and its ability of being a global player is heavily threatened by the power of the images coming from the other side of the Atlantic.
This is why I jumped on the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles, hosted by the Institute of International Relations in the University of Southern California and check myself what makes Hollywood so special and powerful.
Here I am for the next six months and here I’ll tell you – in English, in Italian, in Spanish, about cinema and life in Southern California.