Irish Film Institute -L.A. Without a Map

L.A. Without a Map

Based on Richard Rayner’s English novel, L.A. Without a Map is the comic tale of a young Bradford undertaker who falls for a visiting American girl and follows her to Hollywood. Richard (David Tennant) first lays eyes on Barbara (Vinessa Shaw) at a funeral, and it’s love at first sight. Contemplating his future after Barbara leaves, he decides to hop on a plane to L.A. Armed only with a matchbook, he tracks Barbara to the restaurant where the aspiring actress works while waiting to break into the movie business. As he continues to pursue Barbara, Richard himself becomes involved in a series of misadventures around the fringes of the film world.

Part romantic comedy and part Hollywood satire, L.A. Without a Map is more about the pursuit of dreams than about making it or not in a place dedicated to exploiting fantasies. Finnish director Mika Kaurismaki (brother of Aki) is clearly in sympathy with his young protagonists, especially Richard, the stranger in a strange land who takes all the craziness of L.A. in his stride. The film is filled with outsiders or marginal figures, the most memorable of whom is an eccentric hippie (a very amusing Vincent Gallo) who befriends Richard and guides him through the peculiar ways of this surreal world.

The most interesting thing about the film is its strain of offbeat fantasy and humour. Richard has a guiding spirit in the form of Johnny Depp, whose images from a poster of Dead Man is magically brought to life. Kaurismaki also introduces the Leningrad Cowboys, the mad Finnish band whose outlandish costumes (unicorn hairdos, long pointed shoes) parody the cliches of rock stardom and are as weird a sight as anything a European could find in the city of angels.

U.K./Finland/France, 1998.
Filmed in English.
Dolby stereo SR.
107 min.

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