La La Land
A lovely old-fashioned musical romance about a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) and an actress (Emma Stone) waiting for success and the conflict between external forces and idealistic wishes.
“Presented in Cinemascope“ appears in the opening credits. The camera glides into a tracking shot of a traffic jam like in Godard’s WEEKEND. The idle cars, honking, and audio snippets from radio shows form a medley. The backdrop is Los Angeles. The people suddenly step out of their cars in bright summer clothes and begin singing an impromptu song and dance number about the hope that comes with the dawning of a new day. When the song is over they all step into their car and the honking and running engines start again as if nothing happened. The hyperactive and catchy song and dance scenes keep countering “reality” in LA LA LAND.
Jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and waitress Mia (Emma Stone) are also stuck in traffic and haven’t met yet. Seb drives by Mia shaking his head because she’s driving too slowly. They meet each other again shortly after. Sebastian has just lost his job as a hotel lobby pianist because he gave the requested Christmas songs a jazzy twist. When Mia gives him a compliment, Seb suddenly leaves.
The love story starts off rocky, but Mia and Seb do find their way to each other. When they watch REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE with James Dean, the celluloid catches fire right before the first kiss. Hot love. They bond over their dreams. Broke Seb wants to rise from the ashes like a phoenix and open a jazz club and Mia dreams of trading her waitressing job in a Warner Brothers café for an acting career. She goes to numerous castings and writes a one woman play with the encouragement of Seb.
Director Damien Chazelle divides his musical into seasons. It’s winter in the beginning, they get to know each other in the spring, and are in love by summer. Autumn follows and then it’s winter again. The clearly defined phases of their love story are accompanied by musical interludes with elaborate choreography and melodic compositions that get to the heart of the matter. The camera spins around in a pool, water splashes on the lense, fireworks explode in the night sky, and the couple dance as silhouettes in space. LA LA LAND is both nostalgic and modern in these moments: nostalgic in its constant reference to the golden era of Hollywood, with revues starring Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra or Ingrid Bergman, whose poster hangs in Mia’s room, modern in its agile camera work that wasn’t possible in old Hollywood. The plot about waiting for success and the conflict between external pressures and idealistic dreams is a timeless one.
Chazelle’s enchanting musical romance was the opening film in Venice, won seven Golden Globes, and is bound to be nominated for the Oscars. The film can be compared to Paul Thomas Anderson’s PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE , it’s a compassionate feel-good love story that encourages everyone following their dreams that have had to contend with real hurdles and doubt. It’s undoubtedly kitschy, but it’s the best kind of kitsch!
Translation: Elinor Lewy
USA 2016, 128 min
Genre: Musical, Tragicomedy
Director: Damien Chazelle
Author: Damien Chazelle
DOP: Linus Sandgren
Music: Justin Hurwitz
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, J.K. Simmons, Rosemarie DeWitt
- OV Original version
- OmU Original with German subtitles
- OmeU Original with English subtitles
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