Scooping a record-breaking seven Golden Globes and nominated for 11 BAFTAs, La La Land is shaping up to be the film of the year. I caught up with writer-director of the moment Damien Chazelle to talk about his big influences and next steps.
Watch the interview with director Damian Chazelle
I’ve never been one for movie musicals. Singin’ in the Rain, Evita and all that jazz never worked their magic on me. And don’t even get me started on the hills being alive with the Sound of Music. There is one exception—Fame. But everyone loves Fame, right?
My irrational dislike of musicals comes from my inability to suspend disbelief enough to accept that at pivotal moments characters burst into song and splendidly choreographed turns in suddenly empty streets. It was too preposterous for me. In spite of humming show tunes or often quoting lyrics, I tend to avoid musicals as much as possible, changing channels or pointedly reading a novel while a family member insists on watching a re-run of the King and I or Oliver! or Seven Brides…
But I’ve been turned. La La Land is as spectacular as spectacles can get. The bittersweet story, multilayered characterisation, polished performances (can Ryan Gosling get any better?) and a very satisfying finale make for a euphoric cinema experience.
Damien Chazelle has taken the classic Hollywood musical of the ’40s and ’50s and set it in the present. It’s a vibrant mix of new and nostalgic and it works magnificently.
La La Land tells the story of Mia (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing dreams and breaking hearts. Set in 21st-century Los Angeles, this original musical about modern life explores the joy and pain of pursuing your passions.
The song and dance routines don’t detract from the story but enhance it. Apart from the zesty and colourful opening sequence on the LA freeway and a flatmates-getting-ready-for-a-party routine, the songs are confined to the two lead characters.
There is a lightness about La La Land that suggests it doesn’t take itself seriously and because Gosling and Stone aren’t superb singers or dancers—don’t get me wrong, their performances are memorably good—I engaged with them more for their ‘regular guy’ performances. The film has been described as Chazelle’s love letter to LA, and to Hollywood. Throughout, the film is peppered—from the set designs through to the dialogue—with references to classic films. See if you can spot them all…
Chazelle is in his early 30s and he’s on fire. A year ago, his jazz-inspired film Whiplash shook up the Academy Awards, winning three, including Best Supporting Actor for J.K. Simmons, who also stars in his latest offering.
Does La La Land deserve the ultimate Oscar? It’s already banked seven Golden Globes, including Best Musical, Best Song and Best Director. In fact, the film won every award it was nominated for, and it’s set to sweep the board at the BAFTAs.
Make sure you watch it on the biggest screen you can find, and with someone you love or are hoping to. This is a film you’ll want to see more than once, and you’ll leave the cinema humming the song of the year. La la la la…
La La Land is in cinemas across the UK from Friday 13 January
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