La La Land 2016

Australian HIFI - - BLUE-RAYS REVIEW -

Star­ring: Ryan Di­rec­tor: Gosling, Damien Emma Chazelle Stone, Cal­lie Her­nan­dez, Jes­sica Rothe, Sonoya Mizuno, Rose­marie De­Witt, J.K. Sim­mons and John Leg­end.

It came so close, but of course the Academy Award for best movie was snatched from the hands of its mak­ers to be given to some­one else af­ter a won­der­fully hi­lar­i­ous stuff-up. But it did win six other awards, in­clud­ing for di­rec­tion by the now 32-year-old writer/di­rec­tor Damien Chazelle.

La La Land is an au­da­cious piece of work by di­rec­tor of any age. It evokes the style of the clas­sic song and dance mu­si­cal. In tone it’s some­thing like ‘An Amer­i­can in Paris’, or ‘Singing in the Rain’; it sur­passes them in some ways, and falls short in oth­ers.

The story is a pleas­antly ro­man­tic one, with some wist­ful loss tossed in. Emma Stone (who won the Best Lead Ac­tress Os­car) and Ryan Gosling are strug­gling to get their ca­reers started, he as a jazz pi­anist, she as an ac­tress. When their paths cross they are an­tag­o­nis­tic, but not for long. Their re­la­tion­ship is done with style and a gor­geous look to the whole thing.

Be­cause it is in a colour, of course. Mod­ern, bold, smooth and powerful colour. There are strong pri­maries through­out. The movie rev­els in them, such as the four girls going out with their con­trast­ing dresses. Yes, all the girls wear dresses most of the time. Dresses that wouldn’t look out of place in a 50’s mu­si­cal.

The sound qual­ity is first class, so the mu­sic—writ­ten by Justin Hur­witz who for his ef­forts won two Os­cars (Orig­i­nal Score and Orig­i­nal Song) is de­liv­ered with power and pre­ci­sion and a de­cent dy­namism. There are very particular re­quire­ments for the songs in a mu­si­cal. They can­not re­quire fa­mil­iar­ity to be enjoyed. Movie mak­ers have only two hours to make you en­joy six or eight songs, so all are very ac­ces­si­ble and tend to have a show-tune feel. Within those con­straints, it was all very fine work.

What didn’t work quite as well was the danc­ing… well some of it, any­way. The movie opens with an enor­mous dance num­ber in­volv­ing dozens of dancers emerg­ing from their cars in a traf­fic jam. They’re all clearly pro­fes­sional dancers and it’s wonderful eye candy.

But our stars are movie stars, and be­ing able to per­form a tap dance is no longer a re­quired skill for those en­ter­ing the act­ing pro­fes­sion. Gosling and Stone were clearly coached in dance and have im­mense phys­i­cal tal­ents, so they kind of pull it off. They cer­tainly put all their body parts in the right places at the right times. It’s just that it looks like they’re think­ing hard about what they have to do, and as a re­sult don’t have the spare ca­pac­ity to allow them to in­sert any real snap or bite into their per­for­mances. Fred and Gin­ger they are not, but at per­haps 80 per cent of Fred and Gin­ger, they’re still pretty fine. Stephen Daw­son

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