La La Land Film Review

By Cynthia Suarez

Damien Chazelle, director and screen writer of La La Land, has definitely made his mark in Hollywood’s world of cinema. Critics are raving about La La Land for its story about two dreamers who aspire to make their dreams a reality. It has made an unprecedented number of wins including seven Golden Globe Awards and eight Critics’ Choice Awards. Though it is a 2016 film, many have deemed it reminiscent of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musicals, the likes of which include the famous Singin’ in the Rain and Three Little Words. La La Land revisits classic Hollywood during the 1940s and 1950s, times where lavish, love, and passion roared.

Illustrious movie star Ryan Gosling plays the role of Sebastian, the jazz musician, who refuses to be bound by the progressive and digital world of music production. Golden Globe Awards winner Emma Stone portrays Mia, an aspiring actress struggling to make a cut in the entertainment industry. Together, they enchant audiences with their dance sequences and sunny voices. Though their chemistry stems from previous films like Crazy, Stupid, Love, they reach a new high of love and magnetism in La La Land. Indeed, they do share intimate moments with each other. Still, each person has his personal ambition, something like that of a priceless gem, delicate and treasurable.

Courtesy of Dale Robinette/Summit Entertainment

Damien Chazelle welcomes the visual experience of old-fashioned films by shooting La La Land on film versus digital. This anamorphic format is ideal for long acting takes and fluid dance movements, a medium far more raw, sensual, and romantic than digital films. Chazelle uses 35mm film for much wider shots, so no intricate detail goes unnoticed. Directors Guild of America (DGA) describes La La Land’s cinematography as “a Technicolor vision of contemporary Los Angeles.” Technicolor is a motion-picture process that superimposes primary colors onto synchronized films of the same scene. The end product is a simulacrum of traditional musicals and La La Land is no exception. It takes its audience on a vivid trip of sorts through the use of saturated colors. The eye-popping colors found in the actors’ makeup, costume design, and setting of this film all play up a theme of freshness, growth, harmony,  and sensuality.

The big song sequences, sung by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, are captivating. No lip-syncing is necessary with vocals as soothing and effortless as theirs. They provide a level of authenticity unmatched by any non-diegetic sound. Gosling and Stone pair their vocal stylings with synchronized dance numbers that leave their audience mesmerized. The two naturals have contagious rhythm and flair, giving their audience a reason to jump out of their seat.

Courtesy of Dale Robinette/Summit Entertainment

Furthermore, the Los Angeles sites that become the mise-en-scène are effective for this anachronic narrative; the film comes full circle when flashbacks to specific scenarios are later adequately explained. Everything in frame, from the actors to the lighting choice, works collaboratively to reinforce the tone of each scene. Take the sunset scene for instance. One would think better than to insist on a sunset that lasts for only 30 minutes, but not Damien Chazelle. His meticulousness needed to be fueled. This shifting setting gave the cast and crew only five chances to film the scene successfully. Nonetheless, The New York Times shares that Chazelle wanted the specific Technicolor glow best achieved by a sunset.

For some time now, musicals had been overlooked in the film industry. Not anymore. La La Land gives life to the term “modern-original musical.” It revitalizes the spirit of traditional musicals with a modern twist, and rejuvenates the love people once had for them. Furthermore, it is a tale of two creative dreamers whose passion and commitment are put to the test. La La Land celebrates the livelihood of music and dance, for both often express more than words can say.

La La Land is a visual satisfaction and a must-see film for the modern day romantic.

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