I watched To Live and Die in LA a few days ago for the first time, and I fucking loved it.
It’s not considered a classic film or anything like that but I’ve heard it mentioned favourably a few times over the years. I didn’t pay much attention until a friend bought the soundtrack on vinyl several weeks ago. The artwork on the sleeve showed the sunset photo shown above, and that’s really what made me want to see the film. Something about that picture is deeply unsettling to me. I think it captures the claustrophobia and paranoia of the city. It also speaks of man’s arrogance and ignorance, our insatiable desire to constantly conquer and the inevitable consequence of eventual catastrophe. This image fills me with dread and fear, and I love it.
So I watched the film, and I loved it too.
I wanted to avoid spoiling the film for anyone but I can’t help myself. There’s stuff I want to talk about, and considering nobody reads this, I’m not going to bother censoring myself if it’s not going to impact anyone anyway. So if you’re reading this and are considering watching the film sometime, Kyla and Ben and Golda, then stop reading now. There, I think that’s fair warning.
Here’s what I liked about the film: I liked how gritty it was. It was so gritty, it verged beyond ‘gritty’ and entered ‘disturbing’ territory — the gun shots were graphic, especially the shots to the face. There was full frontal nudity, including the protagonist’s dick. That’s rare now, and it was even more so in 1984! I really liked the grim, unhappy ending. Seeing the protagonist die a violent death was totally unexpected, I actually gasped in shock. But what I think I liked the most was how virtually every character in the film was either revealed to be a piece of shit, or turned into a piece of shit by the end. I think that was the hardest aspect of the film to watch. The audience always hopes for a great redemption to close a film but when it never comes, and when the exact opposite happens, it leaves us questioning humanity, morality. We don’t get the easy satisfaction, the sugar fix we are accustomed to, and we are instead forced to confront our uneasy feelings.
I love that. I don’t want satisfaction. I don’t want sugar fixes. I want to feel awful. I want my faith in the human race shaken. I want to be left with feelings of hopelessness and despair at the end of a film, and To Live and Die in LA did that.
Kudos to William Friedkin and everyone involved in the making of this film. I know I’m way late to the party but I hope they are all proud of this particular work.