L.A. Confidential (1997): Great Genre Picture

L.A. Confidential*

A lot of praise has been showered today on L.A. Confidential and deservedly so. Every aspect of filmmaking is accomplished in it: the writing, direction, acting, cinematography, editing. When over 100 critics in the country single out a movie as the best of the year, you begin to be suspicious. Such critical consensus is unheard of.

Incurable critic that I am, I have watched L.A. Confidential three times, beginning in the Cannes Festival, and I still can’t find a major flaw in it. Oh, I have a long list of small ones that I’ll send to Curtis Hanson by fax.

L.A. Confidential represents the best of what we describe now as Classic Hollywood Cinema. The movie is satisfying on any level: thematically, intellectually, and visually.

Why is it satisfying What makes it such a great film

*It has a multi-layered, densely plotted narrative, that’s full of twists and turns.

*There’s psychological depth, emotional ambiguity, and moral complexity.

*It’s so rare in American films to see a movie that contains more than two or three characters. L.A. Confidential boasts a dozen memorable characters, each fully rounded, each resisting easy categorization.

*Subtlety–The three cops (played to perfection by Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce) are flawed, tarnished–each one of them has a crucial defining moment that is silent–who will forget Kevin Spacey’s decision to leave tabloid payoff on the bar, or the look on Russell Crowe’s face, when he stares in the mirror after a brutal beating.

*Relevance–The film deals with timely issues: police corruption, city politics, big business and small, racial and legal problems, the journalistic code of ethics. As a futuristic take on the 1950s, it anticipates many themes that will become hot-button issues in the future of the City of Angels.

*There’s graphic violence in the film, but it’s not special-effects violence, it’s integrated into the story. In the final shootout, which is beautifully staged, every bullet counts.

*Perhaps more than anything else, L.A. Confidential provides a portrait of a way of life, it vividly captures a whole community, sharply divided along race, class, and education lines.

*The movie looks back at the past, in this case 1953, through the prism of the present, so that we actually get a sense of how and why L.A. has evolved the way it did.

*Finally, the movie requires the audiences to pay attention to detail, think, without telling them where to place their sympathies.

*Oh, did I mention that it’s also highly entertaining.

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me a truly great honor to present the Los Angeles Film Critics Best Picture Award to L.A. Confidential, produced by Curtis Hanson, Arnon Milchan, and Michael Nathanson.

*Speech given in honor of the film, while serving as president of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.