In SHOTGUN FREEWAY: DRIVES THRU LOST L.A., filmmakers Morgan Neville and Harry Pallenberg organize the unmanageable city of Los Angeles into a tidy (if incomplete) microcosm of this sprawling land of danger and drama.
SHOTGUN FREEWAY begins with "Terra," the first of a handful of thematic categories that give the film its structure, tracing the evolution of the city from its natural aridity to artificially lush lawns. The film picks up narrative steam as it plows through "The Valley," "Music," "The Auto", and
more. It culminates in "Disaster" and "Rapture," as earthquakes give way to a proliferation of spiritual movements centered in LA.
Each section explores both the up- and downsides of its topic. The "high" art of painter David Hockney is paired with "low" but vibrant graffiti in abandoned subway tunnels. The glamorous nightlife of Hollywood's heyday is contrasted with vigorous enforcement of Jim Crow segregation in jazz clubs
and record stores. Realtor Elaine Young insists on the necessity of having your own tennis court while touring Bel Air, in juxtaposition to the chilling poverty of the slums.
Chicano struggles are chronicled, dating back to the Depression, when immigrants and US-born American citizens with Spanish surnames were indiscriminately rounded up and sent to Mexico to save relief supplies for whites.
Historian Mike Davis appears throughout SHOTGUN FREEWAY, offering links between geographical, economic, social, and political forces. There also is plenty of astute commentary by saxophonist Buddy Colette, housing activist Bert Corona, author Joan Didion, crime novelist James Ellroy, screenwriter
Buck Henry, detective John St. John, and others. Yet the picture drawn of Los Angeles remains a sketch. Its significant Asian heritage is unfortunately minimized. The near demises of a once-lively beach culture and public transportation system are raised as specters of the past but receive only
superficially nostalgic treatment.
SHOTGUN FREEWAY is preferably viewed in its original video format. Some archival footage and dimly lit scenes have not transferred well to film. Editing occasionally muddles rather than illuminates some scenes, but overall, the blend of found and on-location material is effective. While SHOTGUN
FREEWAY is impressionistic rather than investigative, the dent it makes in the complex psychogeography of what Hockney rightly referred to as "hundreds of LAs" is substantial enough to warrant a serious look.(Adult situations.)
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- Released: 1996
- Rating: NR
- Review: In SHOTGUN FREEWAY: DRIVES THRU LOST L.A., filmmakers Morgan Neville and Harry Pallenberg organize the unmanageable city of Los Angeles into a tidy (if incomplete) microcosm of this sprawling land of danger and drama. SHOTGUN FREEWAY begins with "Terra,"… (more)