“Well, yeah, it was a pretty movie” my Mamma-Mia loving mother said.
“Pretty?” I repeated with disbelief.
I feel obliged to confess – La La Land simply stole my heart, and I don’t think it’s simple.
Thankfully, Damien Chazelle hasn´t become a drummer as he pursued, and he keeps on sharing his fresh viewpoint on music with us. Thankfully Whiplash, the writer´s block side effect, the reflect of director´s own experience kept for long in the drawer has been created, paving a way for his newest La La Land.
This time Chazelle, instead of making a movie about music, has directed a musical. My first thought was, why? – no one makes musicals anymore (Well, that’s not true- check out recent polish the Lure, horror-musical-drama about two sirens in the world of cabaret. I still remember the faces of elderly couples coming out from the cinema, expecting a communist-era themed comedy..). What is undeniable is the fact, that no one makes this kind of movies anymore. As he pictured his intentions in the interview for firstshowing.net:
I guess that was the hope that would be the thing that we hadn’t seen before. That obviously we’d seen elements of this stuff in other movies, but we hadn’t seen it wedded together in this way. And in a contemporary setting. At least that was the hope.
In La La Land, in spite of all the fashion for naturalism, and drama, and pain, Chazelle embroils a hint of the naïve magic of old Hollywood, and when we finally immerse ourselves into the alternative, ethereal world, the sound of smartphone pulls us brutally out of the dream. The other time, it´s just life. The director is not afraid to draw from the masters; La La Land is larded with references to iconic musicals, but contrary to the lion’s share of critics’ opinions, it’s a deliberate tribute rather than a calque. With all of them, Chazelle seems to respond to his own character’s question” How can you be revolutionary when you’re a traditionalist?” as he manages to get away from the trap of the derivative thank-you- card, creating something fresh and one of its kind.
Looking more attentively, we can spot the scenes inspired with The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Singin’ in the rain, Grease and many more. This fan video captures it perfectly:
In this context, we cannot but notice the reference to Casablanca in the piano motive running through the whole movie and how it builds a beautiful framing device, becoming a symbol of two characters’ passionate experiences. Chazelle winks to the fans of Whiplash as well ( Simmons’ and Gosling’s conversation in the restaurant scene). And like his debut, La La Land enraptures with the way of framing the musicians and their instruments. Dynamic camera overlaps and impressive master shots stratificate the songs, giving a moment of grace to every instrumental part.
As the first part pulls the wool over our eyes, giving a promise of classic love story, the second becomes rather a bitter-sweet essay on how making one dream come true may require giving up on another. It also states a question – is it reasonable to keep up with your own vision, when you need to survive somehow? In the touching scene of an audition, Emma Stone sings “Here’s to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem“. The final message is simple in its naivety – don’t give up on dreaming, even though it may turn out that the dream you pursued is not yours anymore.