“Life is good in Los Angeles. It’s paradise on Earth,” narrates Danny DeVito in the first moments of L.A. Confidential, Curtis Hanson’s thickly and richly plotted 1997 police drama based on the novel by James Ellroy. “That’s what they tell you, anyway.” It remains the best film about systemic corruption in the City of Angels since Chinatown. Hanson’s film and Roman Polanski’s are set in different decades—the ’50s and the ’30s, respectively—but the tones and themes are similar: The Hollywood glitz isn’t just the veneer of a tolerable, seedy underbelly; the seediness is the city’s foundation. Maybe it still is, only it’s—to borrow another line from DeVito’s character, Sid Hudgens—“off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush.”
THE FILM SHOWS AT 8 P.M. AT AMERICAN CITY DINER AND CAFE, 5532 CONNECTICUT AVE. NW. FREE. (202) 244-1949.