Those who live in Los Angeles are not likely to be informed, enlightened or entertained by “Shotgun Freeway: Drives Through Lost L.A.,” a shapeless documentary that consists of interviews with prominent residents, all talking about the ever-changing nature of the city. Despite some sporadically bright commentary, docu’s amorphous, rambling structure and crude style will preclude theatrical release, and it’s doubtful for TV or cable in its current raw state.
A thrilling opportunity to document the evolution of L.A. has been missed due to the filmmakers’ lack of a clear vision and their pedestrian technique. And considering the high caliber of personalities included — writer Joan Didion, filmmaker John Milius, artist David Hockney, crime novelist James Ellroy — it’s amazing the film is so lackluster and listless.
The intent of collaborators Morgan Neville and Harry Pallenberg was to make a “surreal-educational” movie that would take the viewers on a tour of L.A.’s “anguished coming of age, from pueblo to condo.” Instead, what emerges is an awkward compilation of testimonies from a bunch of celebrities, whose potentially interesting comments often are chopped in midsentence.
Unfocused docu is divided into segments such as “The Auto,””The Valley” and “The Beach,” which for the most part mine familiar territory.
Some personal and engrossing revelations come from Ellroy, who recalls the traumatic murder of his mother when he was 12 years old, and how the never-solved case served as primary motivation for choosing his metier.
Similarly, screenwriter Buck Henry, who was born into a showbiz family, fondly re-creates his boyhood when he used studio backlots as his playgrounds.
Tone is often nostalgic, underlying the feelings of many Angelenos of being “expelled from Eden.” Milius laments the end of the studio era and is also sentimental about the days when “surfing was more individualistic,” as he showed in his movie “Big Wednesday.” Chapter on the film industry is the most disappointing, mostly because the turf has been better and more thoroughly trod by previous docus, features and books. But pic is unsatisfying even when the comments are fresh and amusing due to its raw, often inept, style. Hence, a segment with Ellroy features him in an unflattering manner because the camera shoots him from the back or from above; one can hardly hear what he says.
But worse is the editing, which is graceless and too abrupt. Some recutting is certainly called for, as the film contains some engaging material that could be presented in a smoother, more agreeable and professional fashion.