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JAMES ELLROY

Austria, 1993 (MIFF 1994, Documentaries)

Director: Reinhard Jud

The legion of James Ellroy fans could require nothing more of this Austrian canonisation of their hero, the uninitiated no better primer. A 'mood' documentary, Jud's film seeks to be more than simple biography by scouring the former haunts of this reformed drunk, junkie and house-breaker, cruising the mean streets of L.A. in search of the obsessive and psychotic figures that people Ellroy's fevered fiction.

The self-proclaimed 'demon dog' of Stateside crime writers has pounded out ten novels (including White Jazz, Black Dahlia and L.A. Confidential) in a decade which scrutinise not just the underbelly but the entrails, exit wounds, powder burns and blood spray patterns of the City of Angels.

When we aren't beside Ellroy in his long, low convertible, gripping the seat as he points out the landmarks that feature in his novels, we're on the dog shit fouled sidewalk scrutinising the facades and interiors of topless bars, porno bookstores and flop houses.

A brutally honest and earthy host, Ellroy conducts his tour with a magnificent eye for the seediest detail. By the time he's worked the real-life pimps, dealers, bruisers, liars, killers and cheats into a description of his fictional milieu, the viewer has the overwhelming impression of being engulfed by the closest thing to hell on earth. As the static dies on a patrol car's two-way and a desperate cry for help breaks across the carpark of a hot sheet motel, James Ellroy reveals that hell is exactly where he wants you to be when between the pages of his books. Hey handsome, lookin' for a party?

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