L.A. Confidential was released in 1997 to huge critical acclaim and it went on to be nominated for nine Academy Awards. Its reputation has since grown to the point that the film is now widely seen as a key Hollywood movie of the 1990s. But it fared poorly at the box-office, having neither big-name stars nor the sop of a comforting moral universe. With characters so bad they were irresistible, the film harked back to an older, darker Hollywood at a time when audiences would soon be flocking to "Titanic". Directed by Curtis Hanson from the best-selling novel by James Ellroy, "L.A. Confidential" stars Kim Basinger alongside Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito and, to the surprise of many industry watchers, two then relative unknowns, New Zealander Russell Crowe and Australian Guy Pearce. The film is a consummate thriller which takes in - without once losing sight of the human cost - police corruption, organized crime, the sleaze press, high-class prostitution, murder and the ways movies and life twist together. Manohla Dargis explores the careers of Hanson and Ellroy, based on interviews with both men, to dig deep into the film's obsession with the twinned, equally troubled histories of the Hollywood studio system and the city of Los Angeles. She untangles the paradox of "L.A. Confidential", a film that paints a jet black, melancholy picture of a city and an industry even as it also testifies to - and exemplifies beautifully - their seductive glamour.
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Manohla Dargis is a film critic for The L.A. Weekly, where she was Film Editor for seven years, and has written for a variety of other publications, including Film Comment, The New York Times and Sight and Sound.
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