It is not difficult to fall in love with Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. The beautifully constructed film has music, songs, dances, colour,splendor , emotions, drama….This is not a film. It is supermarket of spiritual stimuli.
But is it the mondernday classic that it is been made out to be by many critics across the world? No , not really. Don’t get me wrong. I love the verve and the vitality and swirl of joie de vivre and the swerve of scintillating dance moves as the very appealing Emma Stone meets the distractingly standoffish Ryan Gosling. He wants to save jazz music from corruption and extinction(no less) .She wants to save herself from corruption and extinction as she goes through a string of humiliating auditions to become an actress.
I am not too sure of what director Damien Chazelle wants to save.Except maybe our time. He compresses the sprawling narrative of two people finding their bearings as they find mutual love , into two hours of song dance and existential repartees that serve only the purpose of reminding us that idealism when carried to an extreme is as redundant and ineffective as the opposite of idealism.
The screenplay is meant to spotlight an effervescence that was lost to us when Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire stopped dancing together. I am afraid Ms Stone and Mr Gosling cannot match up to the fluid gait and unstopped ebullience of Singing In The Rain.
Not that the pair in La La Land sings and dances in the rain. Though beguiling in charm and utterly irresistible in its heartbreaking translucence La La Land suffers from a congenital evanescence . The narrative’s roadway is paved with coniferous trees. But these, we soon realize, are just studio props. The shade and the tranquility are just illusions.Though shot on painstakingly elected locations that highlight the film’s mood and tempo(the narrative moves through four sections each devoted to one season of the year) the appeal of the heart is purely on the level of a fantasy romance.
Heads buried in wool, or la-la-land if you will, Mia and Sebastian never come across as real people. They represent a kind of untenable romanticism that never goes beyond a textbookish assertion of idealized creativity. In a vital sequence Sebastian disregards his employer’s Christmas playlist and breaks into a magnificent jazz piece on the piano which is ignored by the diners and drinkers at the club where he is forced to eke out a living.
The Misunderstood Artiste As A Portrait Of Isolation… in how manyBollywood films since Guru Dutt’s Pyasa have we met this arrogantselfcentred creative prototype? The singing and dancing that accompanies the jazz aficionado’s journey into the heart of philistinism is nothing new to us Bollywood buffs.
Sebastian’s purist musician’s part comes across as over-righteous and under-developed. I much preferred John Legend as Sebsatian’s jazz associate who explains to Sebastian why jazz must be renewed and updated for it to be connected with contemporary audiences.
But Sebastian is not listening. He wallows in his self-induced state of injured innocence that ultimately crushes his finer feelings for Mia, who comes across as a far more real practical and likeable artiste.
La La Land has some extraordinary piano pieces and some truly endearing song composed by Justin Hurwitz. The lead pair dances like a dream to a choreography that is as smooth as icecream. But La La Land doesn’t touch those summits of greatness that it so bravely aspired to reach.
Director Damien Chazelle’s previous film Whiplash was also set in the world of the ‘so-called fine-arts. But it was a real even brutal world. La La Land is sanitized from all the pain that the two idealistic artistes are meant to feel. I doubt the two characters are allowed to feel anything .They are far too preoccupied with celebrating their artistic superiority to actually feel the hurt of being rejected by a world that worships only success.
There is a sequence where Gosling and Stone pass a studio premise.He tells her that was where Casablanca was filmed.
I doubt anyone would pass through the locations of La La Land 50 years hence and say …this is where it happened.