Movie Review: The Thoughts That Once We Had lacks the character of Los Angeles Plays Itself

Part disorganized valentine to the movies, part advanced film-studies lecture, The Thoughts That Once We Had seems destined to disappoint fans of the talented artist who created it. That would be endearingly cranky California essay filmmaker Thom Andersen, whose claim to (relative) fame is Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003), a spiky three-hour meditation on the various ways L.A. has been used and abused on screen. Andersen built his case for the city using a couple hundred unlicensed movie clips, which is why it took years for the film to become available on DVD/Blu-ray. His new project is similarly rich with borrowed cinematic footage, but it loses the snarky voice-over narration, strongly expressed opinions, and general sense of overarching purpose that characterized its predecessor. What the film really lacks, though, is an intended audience—an idea of whom, exactly, it’s trying to reach.

The film announces itself, from …

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