Telluride 2016: Damien Chazelle's 'La La Land' is Musical Perfection
by Alex Billington
September 2, 2016
"Is this the start of something wonderful? Or one more dream that I cannot make true." I'm on cloud nine. Damien Chazelle is such a remarkable storyteller and talented filmmaker, and he's made his masterpiece. La La Land is musical perfection, an exhilarating and emotional voyage through time, deep into music and cinema. This is definitely one of those movies they don't make anymore, he made one anyway, and it's so much more. La La Land is a love letter to jazz, it's a love letter to cinema, it's a love letter to dancing, it's a love letter to Los Angeles, it's a love letter to having hope, it's a love letter to dreams. It will sweep you off your feet, possibly break your heart, but will remind you of all the audacious joy to be found in this world.
I'm just going to come out and say it - this film is an instant classic, a magnificent opus of joy, a musical for the ages. From the astonishing open number set right in traffic on the freeway in Los Angeles, to every subsequent musical moment, dance scene across the stars, and beautifully-shot frame. It's truly magical and will transport everyone to a whole other world. The best part is that Chazelle balances the moments of story and romance with the breathtaking musical numbers, never allowing it feel too musical-y. And each and every last song is memorable, they're joyous. This is going to change people's lives when they see it, there's boundless inspiration and passion instilled within every shot. It's also one of those movies you'll want to see again right away just to feel the same emotions, those moments of glee and tingles you felt the first time.
It's obvious that the chemistry between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling is palpable. Stone playing the aspiring actress trying to make it big, but struggling. Gosling playing the talented jazz pianist, trying to chase his dreams but losing his way. They're utterly captivating in each scene, pulling us in close and asking us to hear their heart beat while they effortlessly sing their hearts out. Chazelle has orchestrated some truly spectacular dance numbers, the kind that make you want to get up and start shamelessly dancing with them. Which is pretty much exactly what this movie is about - inspiring each and every person to dream big, and never give up on those dreams no matter what happens, and to find the joy in your life, whatever it may be.
The cinematography by Linus Sandgren is especially notable, with so much color and vibrancy, but also so much intricacy in every move. The music and the songs are so special, and they come together so perfectly at just the right moments to make you feel even more connected to this story of love. It's not only about the love between Mia and Sebastian, but every aspect of the film. Chazelle wants to make you love jazz again, he wants to make you love how powerful movies are, he wants to make you love dancing and love letting your heart show you the way. If there's any issue, it's that the film gets a little muddled in the middle after everything gets going, but it's so easy to look past this flaw because so much of it is pure happiness and pure euphoria. Chazelle is also seemingly a master of endings, and the final moments of it will leave you in awe.
I am completely enamored with La La Land, and I am so overwhelmed with happiness. I want to listen to the soundtrack on repeat, I want to take all of my friends to an old fashioned movie palace to show them the film, even the ones who don't like musicals. I want them to see what it's like for a talented filmmaker to truly chase his dreams and tell a story unlike anything out there today. I want everyone else to witness this grand accomplishment and feel as inspired and as amazed by it as I am. Chazelle works in winks to the demise of 35mm, the way music has changed, and to great films in history as a way of showing us we must proceed, we must never give stop dreaming, and we must never stop dancing. We all need to revel in the glory of music.
Alex's Telluride Rating: 10 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing