April 10, 2009

Walking in L.A. - BLADE RUNNER locations and Japanese shopping

A quick, furtive look round Downtown Los Angeles

Last year, I had a couple of days to spare in Los Angeles, but no car. Luckily I was staying near a subway station of the slowly spreading LA County Metro Rail. There are convenient stops near tourist attractions like Universal Studios (the Metro stop is Universal City), Mann's Chinese Theater and the Kodak Center (both near the Hollywood & Highland stop). The tunnels and the Hollywood station featured extensively in the central heist in The Italian Job remake in 2003.

I first surfaced at the Civic Center stop, just two short blocks from the new Walt Disney Concert Hall, at
111 South Grand Avenue, an architectural marvel from the same designer as the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum (which was seen briefly at the start of Tomorrow Never Dies). The curved reflective silver surfaces intersect in shapes that almost defy description. On a sunny day it's hard to look at the outside without being blinded by the glare, perfect for busy intersections!

Walking downhill, I wanted a closer look at the huge tower atop City Hall, that was blown to pieces (in miniature) in the original The War of the Worlds (1953).

I kept going until Little Tokyo, that has several streets of Japanese stores. I was surprised by a huge replica of a space shuttle standing in the street, that celebrates the first Japanese astronaut in space.

In a small outdoor multi-level mall off E 1st Street is Kinokuniya, an excellent Japanese bookstore that had a good selection of DVDs and film-related books and magazines. Many of the DVDs had English subtitles, but there wasn't much anime.

Not to worry, for only a block away at 319 E 2nd Street was Anime Jungle, a store full of rare DVDs, magazines and Japanese toys. A mixture of the best US and Japanese anime releases.

A short walk to 304 South Broadway meant I could return to the Bradbury Building, a stop that we made on our first trip to the East Coast, ten years earlier. The interior of this office block was a pivotal shooting location for Blade Runner (1982), doubling for the interior of J.F. Sebastian's apartment block.

The staircase, lift, entrance hall, elevator, balconies and skylight are all in the film - an evocative place for BR fans. The exterior shots of the front entrance were dressed up with huge pillars, but the cinema opposite, the Million Dollar Theater, was visible in the reverse shots, like when Pris bangs into Sebastian's car.

A couple of blocks north is the 2nd Street tunnel, used for a startling night scene of Deckard driving, his headlights illuminating the shiny interior of the tunnel. Luckily there's a sidewalk running through the tunnel so it's easy to get a close look.

From the tunnel it's just a short walk back to the Walt Disney Concert Hall - a very satisfying circular tour.

Back onto the Metro, it's only one stop further to Union Station, where the main hall was also used in Blade Runner. The establishing shot of Deckard being escorted towards the police chief's office used the huge interior of this beautiful art deco building.

So if you're ever in town, just a few reasons to detour Downtown.

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