Film Plays Itself

Film Plays Itself

11 Episodes

Write what you know, the old adage goes, and why shouldn’t the same hold true for filmmakers? With Herculean artistic struggle, larger-than-life egos, and movie-star glamour all part of the mix, the process of making a film can be as rife with drama as anything on-screen—at least if we’re to believe these self-reflexive looks at the wild, weird, and wonderful world of the movie industry. From catty Hollywood-on-Hollywood exposés like THE BIG KNIFE and THE PLAYER to Euro-chic art-house classics like 8½ and CONTEMPT to unclassifiable metacinematic experiments like DAVID HOLZMAN’S DIARY and SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM TAKE ONE, these films offer tantalizing glimpses into the behind-the-scenes highs and lows of moviemaking from those who know best.

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Film Plays Itself
  • Film Plays Itself Teaser

    Episode 1

  • The Big Knife

    Episode 2

    Directed by Robert Aldrich • 1955 • United States
    Starring Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, Rod Steiger

    Hollywood superstar Charlie Castle (Jack Palance) has it all, except for a way out. When he tries to leave show business, his tyrannical studio boss, Stanley Hoff (Steiger), blackmails him with a let...

  • Contempt

    Episode 3

    Directed by Jean-Luc Godard • 1963 • France
    Starring Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli, Jack Palance

    Jean-Luc Godard’s subversive foray into commercial filmmaking is a star-studded Cinemascope epic. CONTEMPT stars Michel Piccoli as a screenwriter torn between the demands of a proud European direct...

  • 8½
    Episode 4

    Episode 4

    Directed by Federico Fellini • 1963 • Italy
    Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Bruno Agostini, Sandra Milo

    Marcello Mastroianni plays Guido Anselmi, a director whose new project is collapsing around him, along with his life. One of the greatest films about film ever made, Federico Fellini’s 8½ (Otto...

  • La ricotta

    Episode 5

    Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini • 1962 • Italy

    This 1962 short makes explicit Pier Paolo Pasolini’s themes of persecution and sacrifice while introducing an overtly political message; it also reflects a shift from neorealism toward a more symbolic and visionary style in his filmmaking. It got ...

  • David Holzman’s Diary

    Episode 6

    Directed by Jim McBride • 1967 • United States
    Starring L. M. Kit Carson, Eileen Dietz, Lorenzo Mans

    DAVID HOLZMAN’S DIARY is one of the most influential films of the 1960s, charting the self-destruction of a media-saturated youth. As news of the Vietnam War and social unrest blares over the rad...

  • Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One

    Episode 7

    Directed by William Greaves • 1968 • United States
    Starring William Greaves, Patricia Ree Gilbert, Don Fellows

    In his one-of-a-kind fiction/documentary hybrid SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM TAKE ONE, director William Greaves presides over a beleaguered film crew in New York’s Central Park, leaving them t...

  • Lions Love (. . . and Lies)

    Episode 8

    Directed by Agnès Varda • 1969 • United States
    Starring Viva, Shirley Clarke, James Rado, Gerome Ragni

    Agnès Varda brings New York counterculture to Los Angeles. In a rented house in the sun-soaked Hollywood Hills, a woman and two men, Viva, of Warhol Factory fame, and James Rado and Gerome R...

  • Hollywood Shuffle

    Episode 9

    Directed by Robert Townsend • 1987 • United States
    Starring Robert Townsend, Keenen Ivory Wayans

    For this runaway success of urban guerrilla filmmaking, director Robert Townsend and Keenen Ivory Wayans teamed up both as screenwriters and stars in what Janet Maslin of the “New York Times” called ...

  • Close-up
    Episode 10


    Episode 10

    Directed by Abbas Kiarostami • 1990 • Iran
    Starring Hossein Sabzian, Abolfazi Ahankhah, Mahrokh Ahankhah

    Internationally revered Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami has created some of the most inventive and transcendent cinema of the past thirty years, and CLOSE-UP is his most radical, brilliant...

  • The Player

    Episode 11

    Directed by Robert Altman • 1992 • United States
    Starring Tim Robbins, Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward

    A Hollywood studio executive with a shaky moral compass (Tim Robbins) finds himself caught up in a criminal situation that would be right at home in one of his movie projects, in this biting industry ...