By Zofia Wijaszka
Can you recollect those moments from your life that become exceedingly significant for you and your memory, although they don’t seem vital for your life path? I, for example, often think about that time when my wife and I got stuck on West Magnolia Boulevard and North Niagara Street. Her car broke down; hence we had to wait for a tow truck. It took a couple of hours to organize this. Not wanting to waste time, we went to buy a sandwich in a little Italian-styled restaurant and waited for a rescue.
Moments like those — very insignificant for one’s life yet so memorable for some reason — are the most beautiful. The situation above happened when I didn’t like living in Los Angeles. I’ve moved to the United States, to the City of Angels from Poland, and even after one year of being there, I really disliked it. There was always so much traffic, blinding neon signs, liquor stores on almost every single corner, streets full of trash (that’s in the outskirts of Burbank, which is one of the cleanest cities around but forget about Downtown Hollywood, it’s a mess). It didn’t feel like home, I felt like on some sort of different planet, an alternate universe. Los Angeles was that alternate universe for me. People were too nice, too nosy, too much in my business. I, on the other hand, was too cold, too distant for them (I guess it’s my accent that makes me sound angry and firm…). It took me almost two years and a half to notice Los Angeles in all its glory, as I should have before. It was when I watched “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (2019) when something clicked. I have been thinking, what was it in the film that finally got to me? Was it the nearing end of the 60s and its music, clothes, and atmosphere (although I am twenty-five years old, I live for the 60s, 70s, and 80s music)?
It took me almost two years and a half to notice Los Angeles in all its glory, as I should have before. It was when I watched “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” when something clicked. I have been thinking, what was it in the film that finally got to me?
Quentin Tarantino opened my eyes, shone a spotlight on those trivial yet so significant things I mentioned above. With “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, my perspective radically altered. The moment I ended watching the film, I started looking around more; when I drive the car, for example. I always pass the bar from Tarantino’s picture on my way from work. It wasn’t an essential place for the plot, noCasa Vega. Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) drive-by (or stand nearby?) when there is a flash of the building behind one character’s back, painted black, with the word “cocktails” and a picture of martini glass. That’s the moment I gasped. I quickly stood up and almost screamed, “It’s by my apartment!” Now, I immediately notice on my way everyday. This little detail makes my day. Practically every morning, I see it and think, “Wow, it was just in Tarantino’s film, and I see it every day. What a privilege.”
And isn’t it a privilege? Isn’t it a prerogative to be able to drive to the Spahn Ranch (or what’s left of it) on Santa Susana Pass Road and feel all those pent up emotions, see the stories that this place presents? I recently was at Arclight Hollywood, on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, where the viewers can encounter Cinerama Dome. In “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”, Rick and Cliff drive by this legendary place. In the film, Cinerama has its premiere of Maximilian Schell’s “Krakatoa, East of Java” (1968). Remembering it from the film, I felt the need to stop for a moment, look at the flicking lights in front of the Dome and take a picture. Similar to that situation, at the beginning of this month, I passed by Cielo Drive and gazed at the pathway with bewilderment.
I was born in the 90s. That, however, means nothing when it comes to my film or music taste. My favorite band is Fleetwood Mac, and I am absolutely in love with Stevie Nicks. I saw and recognized the portrayal of the City of Angels in the films from the 80s or the 90s before. One of my favorites is “Mannequin” (1987) with Kim Cattrall and “Pretty Woman” (1990) with Julia Roberts (fun fact: the Italian Restaurant, Cicada, still “belongs” to “Pretty Woman” although it also appeared in “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood”). Again, nothing left me so astonishingly in love with Los Angeles like Tarantino’s picture. The director created such marvelous, well-crafted characters and put them right by the landmarks of the city, the cradle of entertainment. It made me realize that I didn’t appreciate it enough.
Now, let’s come back several years back, to the young woman who is working on her goal – becoming a film critic. I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I’d end up living in Los Angeles area, where Warner Bros. is near my place of work. Tarantino’s film made me realize this, maybe trivial yet so vital as I look at the future in Los Angeles.
Again, nothing left me so astonishingly in love with Los Angeles like Tarantino’s picture. The director created such marvelous, well-crafted characters and put them right by the landmarks of the city, of the cradle of entertainment.
I still have to visit all the legendary places from the film, such as Musso & Frank Grill on Hollywood Blvd, or El Coyote on Beverly Boulevard. Once I have a few moments to spare, I need to do this. For now, the appreciation of the simple way to work is all thanks to Tarantino, DiCaprio, Pitt, Robbie, and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.”