Film Plays Itself

Film Plays Itself

16 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

  • Footlight Parade

    Episode 2

    Directed by Lloyd Bacon • 1933 • United States
    Starring James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler

    FOOTLIGHT PARADE is sheer cinematic joy. In this Depression-era romp, a timid stenographer (Ruby Keeler) removes her glasses and—wow!—she’s a star. A gee-whiz tenor (Dick Powell) asserts his independ...

  • Sunset Boulevard

    Episode 3

    Directerd by Billy Wilder • 1950 • United States
    Starring William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim

    Hollywood’s ultimate poison-pen letter to itself, Billy Wilder’s acerbic masterpiece casts real-life silent-screen icon Gloria Swanson as a faded movie star who draws a struggling screenw...

  • The Big Knife

    Episode 4

    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...

  • Two Weeks in Another Town

    Episode 5

    Directed by Vincente Minnelli • 1962 • United States
    Starring Kirk Douglas, Edward G. Robinson, Cyd Charisse

    In 1952, star Kirk Douglas, director Vincente Minnelli, producer John Houseman and screenwriter Charles Schnee teamed for what many consider the greatest drama ever made about Hollywood: ...

  • Contempt

    Episode 6

    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 7

    Episode 7

    Directed by Federico Fellini • 1963 • Italy

    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 8 1/2 (Otto e mezzo) turns one man's artistic crisis into a grand...

  • La ricotta

    Episode 8

    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 9

    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 10

    Directed by William Greaves • 1968 • United States

    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 to try to figure out what kind of movie they’re making. A cou...

  • Lions Love (. . . and Lies)

    Episode 11

    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...

  • Day for Night

    Episode 12

    Directed by François Truffaut • 1973 • France
    Starring Jacqueline Bisset, Valentina Cortese, Jean-Pierre Léaud

    This affectionate farce from François Truffaut about the joys and strife of moviemaking is one of his most beloved films. Truffaut himself appears as the harried director of a frivolous...

  • Hollywood Shuffle

    Episode 13

    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” call...

  • Close-up
    Episode 14


    Episode 14

    Directed by Abbas Kiarostami • 1990 • Iran

    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 work. This fiction-documentary hybrid uses a sensational real...

  • The Player

    Episode 15

    Directed by Robert Altman • 1992 • United States

    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 satire from Robert Altman. Mixing elements of...

  • Adaptation.

    Episode 16

    Directed by Spike Jonze • 2002 • United States
    Starring Nicolas Cage, Tilda Swinton, Meryl Streep

    This brilliantly inventive head trip from the feverish imaginations of director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman stars Nicolas Cage as . . . Charlie Kaufman, a successful yet insecure screenwr...