An episodic tale in which a despondent young man follows the lives of people going to and from home on an L.A. freeway. Meanwhile, an angel and the devil make wagers on which of the drivers... See full summary »

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An episodic tale in which a despondent young man follows the lives of people going to and from home on an L.A. freeway. Meanwhile, an angel and the devil make wagers on which of the drivers will fall in love, die, or in some way change their lives. Written by Joe Arthur <tenebrae50@hotmail.com>

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Heartless Brechtian fantasy
23 March 2003 | by (Vancouver, B.C., Canada) – See all my reviews

In the Hollywood Hills, an angel appears before a young man (Justin Lazard) and explains that Los Angeles is filled with interesting stories. He directs us to follow the lives of a few people driving the freeways of L.A. and to understand their foibles and tragedies in a series of disconnected vignettes. It is intellectually amusing to assume that L.A. is basically an inhumane place and that the main characters are mere puppets representing a tug or war between angels and devils (who discuss and argue about whether or not humankind are worth the trouble in the first place). What is not amusing is that director-writer-producer Ulli Lommel has created such a heartless, unfeeling film. It is significant that none of the characters emerge triumphant here; most are shattered by tragedies that Mr. Lommel reveals with unsubtle distance and a lack of compassion. His Brechtian approach creates a film in which the only reasonable viewer response is to detach emotionally from it and to not care; A DAY IN L.A. has, interestingly, received so little public distribution as to prop up my hypothesis. However odd it may seem, this response is far from Mr. Lommel's intent. In one vignette, a destitute woman (Suzanna Love) is robbed as she sits in her car, but the robber sees the hopelessness in her eyes and gives back her last few dollars. Such a scene could include redemption and emotional depth, but emerges as just flat. Under Mr. Lommel's inept staging and editing the scene fumbles around, complete with actor miscues and an under-rehearsed quality that is found only in student film productions. It is rare, indeed, to witness a film director in such serious regression. With the appearance of Helen Shaver as a beautiful devil who is locked in spiritual battle with the angel for control of the people in these vignettes, I thought the film would pick up. However, as with the handling on a conceptual level, Mr. Lommel is equally or even more unsure of what he's doing with the actors. Shaver and some other good performers (like Charles Hallahan, Alix Koromzay and Carolyn Seymour) underplay to the point of deadpan lifelessness - they are mere puppets, you might say. It is another unfunny Brechtian reference, consistent with the director's relentless drive to make a movie that is as inaccesible to the viewer as humanly possible.


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