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Walking Tour in (500) Days of Summer

by Veronica Paredes

Walking down South Broadway, Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) explains to Summer (Zooey Deschanel) that “the street level isn’t so exciting, but umm … if you look up.” In the summer of 2009, plenty of Angelenos were willing to follow Tom’s advice. That year the LA Conservancy offered a real-life walking tour highlighting the architectural monuments and gems that Tom gushes over in this film. Called “500 Days in Downtown L.A.” the popular walking tour is fitting. As he strolls down Broadway in this scene, Tom exemplifies the spirit of the LA Conservancy. He is interested in historical preservation, protective of the solidity and beauty of old buildings. Guiding Summer through downtown, Tom’s gaze is firmly focused upward, away from the immigrant merchants and customers populating the street, and toward the vacant upper stories more easily representative of early twentieth-century architecture. As the couple looks upward, so does the camera, featuring abstract shots of building ornamentation and details. Even in the soundtrack, noises of street diminish as Temper Trap’s airy “Sweet Disposition” crescendos, communicating the tenderness of budding love.


But what does it mean to “look up”? Complying with Tom’s instruction, like Summer, the film ignores the street level. The montage’s roving close-ups of the Eastern Columbia and Fine Arts Buildings disavow the reuse of many of the street’s structures. By evacuating downtown of its foot traffic and sidewalk scenes, the film replaces downtown’s topography with the faces and gaze of its romantic couple. Formally, this technique brings the audience closer to the subjectivity of the film’s main characters (well, mostly just Tom's). Ideologically, it dismisses the diverse crowds that comprise downtown Los Angeles’ contemporary public.  


Walking Tour in (500) Days of Summer

Walking past the Broadway Trade Center near 7th Street, Tom dismisses the street level as not very exciting. The couple focuses upward, on the historic buildings as the film's camera follows suit.

from (500) Days of Summer (2009)
Creator: Marc Webb
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Posted by Veronica Paredes