La La Land (2017)
Set in LA, the home to big dreamers,
La La Land
focuses on the stories of aspirating actress Mia (Emma Stone) and jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling). Playing rigid sets in cocktail bar after cocktail bar and missing role after role, leads to the couple losing hope in their ambitions, but to finding each other. They build each other up. Constantly encouraging another to power through and follow their heart; for Mia to put on her one woman show, and for Seb to work towards opening his self-titled jazz bar. As Seb signs to a touring band to earn a steady income, they begin to see less and less of each other. Patiences is frayed, and the tiny turn out for
So Long, Boulder City
, which Seb unintentionally misses, is the final straw for Mia. She returns home, out of pocket and faith, not wanting to make a mockery of herself any longer. She doesn't realise it at the time, but sometimes you must fail in order to succeed. A phone call from a casting agent trying to reach Mia sends Seb flying to her family home. He desperately convinces her that this is the big break she's been working towards, and they part ways appreciating that now they must follow their dreams instead of each other...
La La Land
is the second film I have seen this year, where I have watched it twice at the cinema consecutively. After desperately purchasing tickets for the first screening I could; early on a Saturday morning, Luke and I joined up with our group of friends to see it again, after a meal and overdue catch up in the evening. My first impression of the film was simply that I loved it; so much so, that when I returned home I immediately began scouring the web for how to play the opening segment of
on piano. It, alongside
City of Stars
' first few notes, have been in my head ever since. I was thrilled to be viewing the film again in the evening and, despite finding it a little slower the second time around, I still enjoyed every second of it. There's so much to see and take in that I think it'll only continue to grow on me. I also think I'll be listening to jazz a lot more often now. As I waited for my car to defrost after the evening screening, I listened to the
Late Night Jazz
playlist on Spotify and it was the chillest thing.
is not only an incredible name for a track, but also a glorious tune too.
The throwback to classic cinema, especially to Golden Age musicals, was obvious from the seconds the black and white Summit sequence cut to a shot revealing the Cinescope logo. Much to the enjoyment of an elderly man sitting a few seats from me, who gleefully chuckled at this, which was wonderfully heartwarming! What really beamed at me from the initial screening though, and even more so when rewatching, was the amount of times I noticed how Hitchcock and his work appeared to have inspired the film.
Firstly, I spotted how there were occasions in which aspects of Mia's costume echoed those worn by Judy/Madeleine (Kim Novak) in
(1958). Just looking at
, with the sweetheart neckline, transported me back to watching
or the moment Scottie (James Stewart)
. Moreover, the shot in particular that I couldn't shake the similarity from was when Mia joins Sebastian to sing
City of Stars
in his apartment. Again, the colour of Mia's dress, but this time coupled with
, where it was diffracted by a thin net curtain, felt almost like a carbon copy of the scene in which
The use of lighting and camerawork also pays ode to Hitchcock. The way the camera feels as though it is carelessly drifting through the scenes on a dolly, especially evident for the opening number
Another Day of Sun
, yet focusing your attention on exactly where it needs to be, caused the term "caméra-stylo" ("camera-pen") to ring in my ears. It's been years since I studied Hitchcock, but seeing traits of caméra-stylo being screamed from every scene, made the inspiration from an array of classic cinema in
La La Land
Caméra-stylo is the idea that the Director is the "Auteur" ("Author") of their work. Rather than having input through the screenwriting, the Director instead has unmissable influence on all of the individual visual aspects that make up a film. This is in order to tell the story exactly in the way they intend to. For instance using lighting; camera movement, placement and blocking; and mise en scène to create meaning. So not only were the nods to Hitchcock and classic cinema evident in the colour and costume, but in the ways in which the light would dramatically dim to highlight characters, how the camera intimately interacted with the scene and you to personally reveal key elements of the plot, and I can't help but think of the seamless transitions between particular scenes being akin to those in
The film cleverly brought itself into the present day by using techniques popularised in modern films alongside the elements pulled from classic cinema. In contrast to the scenes shot in a single take, the impressive use of whip pans in the scene the still above is from, hard cuts where music dramatically silences as the scene changes, and diegetic sound to break up scenes too - such as when Mia and Seb are interrupted by a ringing phone - all assist with creating a modern film with undeniable nostalgic vibes.
I love seeing Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling together. Their on-screen chemistry in
Crazy, Stupid, Love
(2013) was captivating, and this didn't change with
La La Land
. Unlike the other films, I especially loved was how real their characters felt - it was fun to see them cut loose and goof around in their roles. Whether that be Stone rocking along to A Flock Of Seagulls'
, or Gosling's character's sarky nature. What especially took me by surprise was how amusing the film was in little ways. Whether that be through throwaway comments or looks. I laughed REALLY hard at Seb's reaction when he begins to pull away in his convertible as Mia, unbeknownst to him, tries to get into the car. I can still picture the way Gosling's eyes have widened and the look of pure shock that is plastered across his face when the camera moves forward to reveal his surprise.
To conclude, I love it. I can't disagree that Damien Chazelle has created something really special. I adored the use of light and colour, the performances from the cast and the traits of their characters, how the music motif of Mia and Seb's theme was repeated during the film (
also very Hitchcock!
), but especially how the musical numbers were sprinkled throughout (instead of being one after another) making each feel magical. I'm already looking forward to seeing the film again and have a strong feeling it may end up being my go-to when I'm in need of a bit of fun or even reality.
I'm also really happy with how the film ended. Whilst it was gut-wrenching to see everything Seb would have done for Mia, I loved that they both achieved their dreams, even if taking a chance on them meant parting ways. The main message I took from
La La Land
is that even though we may fall for people we truly believe we're destined for, when it comes to pursuing our dreams and taking care of ourselves, sometimes life goes in unexpected directions. That there is always something to learn and take from every relationship, and that we must embrace wherever they and we go respectively. Something else I feel I've learned from
La La Land
is that life would be a lot more exciting if I took a leaf out of Seb's book, and started wearing tap shoes EVERYWHERE.