The Rising Star of Damien Chazelle
La La Land (2016), the movie title on everyone’s lips, is a top contender for film of the year. Damien Chazelle’s latest masterpiece is all sweetness and light, a far cry from the twisted darkness of Whiplash (2014). The musical is an homage to the classics taking place in an entirely modern setting and merging nostalgia with originality for a movie that is a much-needed breath of fresh air.
Chazelle’s obsession with jazz musicians has been at the forefront of his work since his humble beginnings: Guy and Madeline Sitting on a Park Bench (2009), his Harvard thesis film. This time, he has concocted an epic love story between a struggling actress and jazz pianist, played respectively by Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. The three pillars raising this film to such great heights are the stellar original soundtrack, the stunning visuals, and Stone and Gosling’s undeniable chemistry.
Justin Herwitz, the composer behind all of Chazelle’s movies, provided such incredibly moving music for La La Land that this may well be his magnum opus. It moves seamlessly from uplifting to heart-wrenching, and is the movie’s beating heart. It both captures and creates the spirit of the film, everything else just revolves around the musical core.
The film’s cinematography is nothing short of breathtaking. While the plot is for the most part a realistic portrait of struggling artists, the film contains multiple fantasy and dream sequences with incredible effects, featuring its protagonists literally dancing among the stars. The entire film is a tapestry of bright colours, a shining light of immersive escapism that audiences hungrily soaked in at the end of such a dark year.
La La Land marks the third time Gosling and Stone work together onscreen, and for good reason. They have an organic rapport, making them an absolute pleasure to watch. Even when the film strays from reality, they’re incredibly believable, bringing their characters to life with charming likeability. Though neither are professional singers or dancers, they are more than able to hold their own after three months of intense training, and this further serves the film by creating a candid sweetness.
The film effortlessly swept up seven well-deserved Golden Globes, setting a new record for most awards won by a single film. I highly recommend all of Damien Chazelle’s work, though La La Land soars farther than I could have possibly imagined while anticipating the film. If you’re either a film or music enthusiast, you definitely don’t want to miss La La Land.