La La Land

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Damien Chazelle’s third directorial venture after the hugely successful and ground breaking Whiplash. If there was one director in the current generation who can confidently handle and do justice to a film centred around music, Damien is the man. La La Land started oozing out hype when writer & director of Whiplash joined hands with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone for a musical ode to the great Hollywood musicals.


Justin Hurwitz’s original score is the backbone of this musical as he recreates the magic of Jazz. Justin and Damien, mates from Harvard, who played in a jazz band together is turning out to be one of the most important musical artistic collaboration to happen in feature films in the current generation. Every note, every strand of music contributes to the film. Every pause in between the notations conveys emotions especially during the climax. I strongly believe that Hurwitz will stand with more than one golden statue in his hands come this February 26th at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.


Cinematographer Linus Sandgren paints the canvas created by the writer/director with enticing visuals. Since the musical involves dance numbers, the choreography of the camera movement from the flash mob sequence to the intense close-ups of the leads are perfection. Special mention for the places where the stationery camera starts to move fluidly. Lighting in this movie is awe worthy when everything else fades away and focus is fully on the artists and the moment they find themselves in, the impact just multiplies manifold. It is also heart-warming to note that the movie was shot on film in cinemascope.


Academy Award winning Editor of Whiplash Tim Cross does it again. The cuts and framing are in perfect sync with the music of the film once again showcasing his deep level of understanding of the inter play between narration and music. The camera angles are further enhanced and more importantly the performances of the leads are captured in full. The film is also tightly packaged with no distracting/unnecessary scenes/cuts.


Costume designing adds so much value to films like La La Land. Mary Zophres provides great support in bringing a sense of nostalgia, of a dreamy landscape, of Hollywood itself. Production Design by the Wasco duo is a love letter to the unforgettable musicals where we see a couple who fell in love roam around in Boulevards, observatories, Painted street walls & Jazz Clubs. The film borders on the dreamy/surreal landscapes and therefore is more tricky to balance. Both these departments have aced it on that count.  Sound Mixing again plays an important role in musicals and especially the ones Damien work on as the need for authentic sounding is more. From the solo trumpet, to the piano and the rich orchestra, live music gets authentic as it can get. Dance choreography by Mandy Moore is another gem in this star-studded knock-out performance by all the technical crew involved.


Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have owned their respective roles as if they were meant to play it all along. The efforts that Gosling must have put in to learn and play piano without cuts right needs to be applauded. The sudden shocks are a great tribute to the Charlie Chaplin. The passion and melancholy he adds to the character is spellbinding. Mia is one of the best performances of the Emma’s till date and the palette of emotions at display is simply extraordinary. Special mention for the audition scenes.  Front runner for best actress in leading role.

The vision of Damien Chazelle as a writer and director is mammoth. Although the film has romance at its centre, it’s much more. The writing also commentates on pure music, jazz, of drama & melancholy, of dreams & reality and finally of life itself. Both Whiplash and La La Land shows how passionate he is about jazz music and how he wants to make a difference just like Sebastian played by Gosling in the movie.


The detailing and authenticity of writing evokes a sense of nostalgia and draws you into the movie almost making the audience think that they are watching a period piece only to be reminded by the buzzing of a trademark I phone ringtone. In an era where Hollywood is obsessed with reboots and superhero franchises, Damien has made a musical drama about a passionate jazz pianist and an aspiring actress falling in love with each other on the streets of Los Angeles. Eagerly waiting for his next collaboration with Ryan Gosling in the tentatively titled ‘First Man’, a look at the life of Neil Armstrong.


In La La Land, when you are walking on a pier, you can suddenly start to dance with people that are there. You suddenly learn that you can fly in an observatory. The movie flows in a fluid manner which is pretty much the essence and flavour of jazz music itself.


La La Land is a very rare and unique piece of film making in the midst of corny eye popping films. This film is a reminder as to why we fell in love with the movies in the first place. It's an ode to a genre of film making in itself. No wonder Hollywood loved this movie. No wonder it has equalled the record of highest ever Oscar nominations at 14. La La Land is one of those movies where the audience will remember a scene/shot or hear a song/solo instrument play even after they leave the theatre.

Sriraman Srinivasan
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