I’ve always been a fan of escapism: TV, movies, books, it doesn’t matter. But there is something about going out to the Big Screen that does the trick without making you feel groggy or hung over.
So while in the midst of my surgery anxieties on Tuesday, I took myself off to see La La Land by Damien Chazelle. Since this isn’t Paris, I had to choose very carefully the theatre and the roads and availability of parking. Without too much trouble, I arrived at BayStreet 16 AMC Theatres in Emeryville to see one of the Oscar contenders: La La Land
As the film started to roll, the screen announced that La La Land was filmed in panavision and therefore Cinemascope, in very large letters, filled the whole screen. The curtains pulled back just like in my youth. Coincidently, I saw Mr. Chazelle chatting with Ben Mankiewicz on TCM classic movies channel last night. Ben said “You filmed this film all over Los Angeles, yet you’ve tried to make it look like it was filmed on a backlot. All the old films from the backlot days tried to make it look real” Mr. Chazelle said he was aiming for something in between: magical!!!
The two men were introducing The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (go see it asap if you haven’t already seen it. Go see it again if you have!!!) Mr. Chazelle agreed that this film was one of the biggest influences on La La Land. I think he said he has seen it 17 times. That’s close to my record of Singin’ In the Rain. So even though, I’d seen Umbrellas of Cherbourg, I watched it to see the influences. I liked it so much better this time around.
I digress. La La Land pays homage to Singin’ in the Rain (in the beginning and throughout the movie). Boy and Girl meet the first time while in cars and immediately piss each other off. Boy runs into girl again and almost knocks her over. Finally boy and girl meet a third time and the attraction begins. Neither Emma Stone or Ryan Gosling have great singing voices but that’s part of it’s charm as in Umbrellas of Cherbourg. On the other hand,, they do seem to be very good dancers and I would have loved to have seen more of them dancing. Listen to the two of them sing “City of Stars”. Ryan Gosling is playing the piano and he is GOOD, very good!!!
The story is age old: trying to make it in Hollywood, the ups, the downs. Everything about the movie is charming: the actors, the singing and dancing, the ordinariness of the characters played by the two stars and, as in many Gene Kelly movies, there is a fantasy number that is beautifully produced and executed. I want to tell you the ending but you must go find out yourself.
Rotten Tomatoes calls La La Land Chazelle’s love letter to a by-gone era. Yes! A wonderful era full of singing and dancing and the opportunity to escape and forget the present with it’s anxieties and powerlessness. It worked for me!!!