La La Land: An Ode to Love and Dreams
Jan 18, 2017   •   Baxter Jacinto
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Jan 18, 2017   •   Baxter Jacinto
“To me, it was important to make a movie about dreamers, about people who have these giant dreams that drive them, that bring them together, but also tear them apart,” says Damien Chazelle, who just recently received his first ever Golden Globe Award Best Director and Screenplay for his whimsical and magical film La La Land.
And true enough, La La Land is a story about dreams and love set in the backdrop of Los Angeles, a place where Hollywood dreams are realized (or shattered on a whim).
La La Land’s opening song Another Day of Sun immediately sets the bar high in terms of choreography, but I was a bit terrified that the film might not be able to keep up that momentum, but thank heavens I was wrong because it only got better as the film progressed. It was all thanks to choreographer Mandy Moore (not the singer).
Chazelle’s previous feature Whiplash centers around pursuing jazz as a profession, the very same situation Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) finds himself in La La Land. This is the second time Chazelle delves in the world of jazz and uses it as an allusion to the lives of his protagonists. Just as a jazz performance where players and their individual style seemingly clash but in the end create intoxicating music, Chazelle’s characters manage to make their individual arcs come together and weave a beautiful story in La La Land.
This film was all about nostalgia, referencing Hollywood classics like Rebel Without a Cause, the balcony where Bogart and Bergman shared a night at Casablanca, jazz greats like Bill Evans and Miles Davis, all the way to the creative choice to shoot in film and employ anamorphic lens.
In his interview with Vulture he mentions, “As far as the intellectual reason, there was something about the idea of jazz and it’s connection to the Hollywood musical — a lot of my favorite old Hollywood musicals, and musicals from the French New Wave, have a relationship with jazz.”
It was initially Miles Teller lined up for the role of Sebastian, but an issue about creativity paved the way for Hollywood hearthrob Ryan Gosling to star in the movie alongside Emma Stone. Gosling and Stone were able to deliver on their performances, as their Golden Globe Awards would attest.
The panning and tracking of the shots were lovely, it was as if Chazelle really wanted the audience to navigate and experience the space in La La Land. The camera would always have Mia (Stone) on center focus, as if telling the audience that this woman really wants to be in the spotlight and center of attention, which was ultimately Mia’s dream throughout the film.
La La Land‘s rich and vibrant colors are resminiscent of Jacques Demy’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Young Girls of Rocherfort. Chazelle admits that these were indeed his inspirations for the film. The eye-popping neon colors gave the film a retro look that reminds us of old Hollywood films. Color played an important role in depicting the lives of Seb and Mia. Throughout the film we always see Mia in bold dresses, making her stand out in the crowd (the perfect complement to the camera’s center focus). Meanwhile we see Seb’s color palette in boring neutral colors, which describes him best: an old soul living in the present.
The role of love here is to drive each character’s ambition; it’s not romantic–rather it is the kind of love that provides the characters that little push to take a step towards pursuing their dream. Sure, Seb and Mia were both in love with each other, but they were more in love with each other’s dreams.
La La Land‘s central story revolves around the struggle between pursuing what one needs versus what one wants. The characters knew exactly what they want, and they knew exactly what had to be done to accomplish their dreams. Regardless how people feel about the ending, La La Land simply makes you want to pursue your dreams right after you exit the movie house.
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