Neither the sea nor the sand

SOCIETY: With a country and neighbourhood changing in strange and scary ways, residents of Venice Beach, California express their views of the world.

For confluent reasons of geography and industrial-cultural economics, Los Angeles has long been the most filmed city in the world. After 124 years of «La La Land» cinema, how can new angles be found on California’s mega-metropolis? French photographer/anthropologist Marion Naccache — as part of her project chronicling specific urban seasides—finds a fresh approach with Venice Beach, CA, a detached but intimate portrait of the eponymous, raffishly bohemian enclave.

Naccache’s series began with 2010’s 65-minute Coney Island (last summer), focusing on the fabled New York amusement-park; the follow-up Arpoador, about a spur of land in Rio de Janeiro (the city where she resides) was reportedly completed around 2015 but has yet to surface publicly. And it appears that the 79-minute Venice Beach, CA was also a time-consuming affair: a version was screened at Los Angeles’ Skid Row History Museum & Archive as long ago as November 2016.

venice_beach_documentary_still2
VENICE BEACH, CA, a film by Marion Naccache

Just over one mile

The completed version, premiering at Cinéma du Réel, begins with a title-card that’s simultaneously precise and vague: we will see «Venice Beach Boulevard between Rose Avenue and Windward Avenue [a distance of 0.7km, just over one mile] at sunrise between 5am and 9am one fall.» Which fall? Overheard news-footage of an electioneering Donald Trump suggests the autumn in question may well be 2015. It is also unclear whether the film was shot on a single day or over a period of weeks. The latter seems most likely, given how Naccache freewheelingly discards linear chronology. Venice Beach, CA begins in semi-darkness and returns to the noirishly pre-dawn at semi-regular intervals.

Appearing as it does in the early months of the Joe Biden era, the film is endowed with a certain time-capsule . . .

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Neil Young
Young is a regular contributor to Modern Times Review.
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